If your social media account, for example your Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram account, or your email has been hacked, don’t panic, there are steps you can take.
When an account is hacked this may have been carried out by someone you know or by someone you don’t via malware (software specifically designed to disrupt, damage or gain unauthorised access to a person’s computer).
A hacked account can be very distressing but depending on where this has happened (what account or platform) there are steps you can take in order to regain control.
People sometimes tell us “someone is pretending to be me online”. Sometimes an act like this is carried out when a person wants to assume someone else’s identity online. This could be to either cause distress to someone or as an attempt to get money (defraud) them. This is called impersonation or online impersonation.
A fake account may also be created as a way of impersonating or targeting a person. Somebody wanting to make a good fake profile may want to do so to cause distress, assume a different identity (catfishing) or as a parody. Fake social media accounts are usually in breach of a platform’s terms and conditions and can be reported.
If any of the above has happened to you, you may be wondering is this illegal? Can I call the Police? It might help to ask yourselves these questions to help you decide: Has it happened before and do you suspect you know who might be doing this? Is this affecting you on a daily basis? If so this is harassment (behaviour which offends, is distressing or intimidating you) and the police should be contacted.
Abusive comments made could be a form of malicious communication (communication sent with the intent to cause distress) and these can be reported online and to the police.
If someone posts offensive messages because of who you are, or who they think you are, this is hate speech (abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group) and these should be reported to the police as a hate crime
The police can follow guidelines for law enforcement about how to gain evidence from social media to support ongoing investigations.
Find out how to report and recover hacked accounts on commonly used social networking sites below: