Facebook hijacked: Will anyone there answer the phone?

August 10, 2011

Like about three-quarters of a billion other folks, Elisa Zuritsky enjoyed connecting to her friends and family through Facebook. Then, on Memorial Day Weekend, someone hijacked her account and she learned what untold others have: Facebook doesn’t have a phone number to help you work out your problems.

After a couple of months of emails, pleas for help and even blogging about her frustration of trying to get back what she’d lost, Zuritsky’s Facebook page was still tied up by the scam artist who had been sending messages to her friends and family asking them for money. Zuritsky, a TV producer and writer, was supposedly in London and in desperate need of cash.

From New York, and only in desperate need of a Facebook fix, Zuritsky says it has been painfully frustrating to get emails directing her to do the same things over and over again, only to end up with the same result.

“How about a number that you call? I don’t understand,” she says. “What’s the problem? They can afford to have a team of people who are troubleshooting for their frustrated users.”

Being able to afford to and actually doing that are two different things. Facebook spokesman Frederic Wolens says the company decided its electronic-only approach is the way to go.

“Consistent with the practices of other major providers of free online services, we offer email and Web-based support for Facebook because it enables us to most effectively and efficiently serve our over 750 million users worldwide,” he says.

Zuritsky’s not alone in her upset over the policy. Complaint boards are littered with unhappy users who just want to talk to a human being. Here’s one recent comment:

Good luck contacting anyone to do anything. Amazing thing is how can the people who make tons of money off of this site ignore everyone.

Zuritzky says she had that same experience: “I’d find myself in the nonsensical loop of instructions.”

Wolens says users whose accounts are taken over should follow Facebook’s’ advice.

“I recommend that everyone try www.facebook.com/hacked as their first option when trying to recover their account,” he says. “Through email correspondence, our User Operations team is able to verify the account owner via their email address and use automated methods to prioritize requests, making sure we’re handling the most critical requests first. We also offer an online help center that we are constantly improving to enable users quick and easy access to answers to the most frequently asked questions.”

Jo Ann Parris, a customer service expert whose company, Convergys, counsels other companies on how to best handle consumer issues says people still want to talk to real people to resolve their complaints. Nearly half of all consumers in a broad survey by Convergys said that was their preferred method of first contact with a company, well ahead of email or live chat.

“I can understand Facebook in that they’re trying to be low cost,” says Parris, a vice president in the company’s Orlando, Florida, office. “Typically what we recommend is that your simple transactions you’d want to automate.”

One day, she says, the electronic systems will be so good that they could solve most any problem. But we’re not there yet.

“Most businesses have something that has a complexity to that you’d like to give them the ability to talk to a live person,” Parris says.

As for Zuritsky, her months of struggling to get back her account finally ended this week after Reuters brought her plight to the attention of certain people at Facebook. If you’re one of her friends and you hear from her, there’s a good chance it’s really her.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

My account was Deleted by Facebook!

And I can’t even get an email response over 6 months later still waiting!


Posted by toyotabedzrock | Report as abusive

[…] Reuters.com columnist Mitch Lipka wonders if Facebook can help its 750 million citizens, like Elisa Zuritsky, protect themselves from […]

Posted by Tech wrap: Cisco beats “low bar” | FACEBOOK FOR DATING | Report as abusive

In case you missed: I am heading downtown tomorrow, while weather is bad, do keep in mind of accident risks please as I have no health insurance at all.

Posted by ta-boo | Report as abusive

The answer seems pretty simple to me: Facebook should charge for live support. I would rather see that than more prominent ads to keep a call center running.

Posted by diluded0000 | Report as abusive

I wish one day people will realize Facebook is not a public service but a private company.

Every user is just a part of the product Facebook sells to its customers (ie advertising companies, whose customers are other companies, whose customers are you).

And yes, you are not a customer, you are the product. You don’t pay for the service, advert companies pay Facebook to offer a service to other companies that ask you to pay for their services. Is THAT so hard to understand?

It’s like a farmer opening up a customer service for his or her cows!

Let me show you who gets paid by who and what they sell.

Facebook —–> Advert ——–> Company ——-> Consumer /User
Users ———- Visibility —— Product ——— Users

Posted by GASK | Report as abusive

Try Google+ The features are substantially better and Google employees interact with users regularly about features and general feedback.

Posted by GSH10 | Report as abusive

Google+ will replace Facebook in short order.

Posted by libertadormg | Report as abusive

[…] not being able to find a phone number for an online business. Facebook was recently criticized on Reuters Money for not offering live phone support. When a user’s account was hijacked, she got nothing from […]

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