UPDATE 03.01.11

Thanks so much to Facebook for restoring my account! After two weeks and three attempts, I'm back in. Two days ago I submitted my third or fourth request and today I got an email from Rick in User Operations letting me know my account was restored. Yay! Thanks to everyone for all the kind words and if you've been hacked off, read this post. See you on Facebook.

One thing Mark Zuckerberg and I have in common: we’ve both had Facebook pages hacked. His is back up and running. Mine is still disabled.

It’s been five days since I got this message. “Your account has been temporarily suspended for security purposes. Our systems indicate that your Facebook account has been compromised by cybercriminals attempting to impersonate you. “

If you’re here because this also happened to you, first of all my sincere sympathies and feel free to share your experience or any helpful ideas on how to restore or rebuild accounts in the comments section. For everyone, please read this post and take precautions to protect you and your Facebook account today, or ideally, right now.

What you need to change right now: your email and Facebook passwords, especially if they’re easy to crack, they’re both the same and your email is tied to a free account provider like Yahoo! or hotmail.

Wondering if your password will be easy to guess? Take a look at the works in the graphic image that accompanies this post. [Thanks to Shutterstock.com for the popular password image.] Need directions? Here's a helpful article on how to pick a safe password.

If you're in this situation, the hacker may have an email and password combination that might unlock other accounts, too.

How I Found Out My Facebook Account Was Hacked

On Wednesday I opened my laptop to find another email address in place of mine on the log in screen. Checking two other computers, and my iPhone, I saw the same alien email address.

When other people checked my account, there were no recent updates at all. In fact, my wall was scrubbed clean. It felt so weird to see absolutely nothing. . .

Thanks to friends who alerted me via direct messages on twitter, email and this blog's contact form that someone was posing as me. How did they know?

I'm never on Facebook chat and this person, the fake Barbara, was asking for money. When I entered my email address, Facebook didn't recognize it.

I found out that a 419 scam disabled my Facebook account. Think you might have this issue? Thanks to Publicity Hound Joan Stewart for the link to forms to use and things to do if your Facebook fan page disappears.

The hacker took me off of my profile and now had access to my profile and all those I manage.

I immediately notified every client and group admin and asked them to delete me from their profile. By the time my clients got the message, Facebook had already disabled the account.

I was officially off of Facebook within an hour or so of first finding out my account had been hacked.

Poof! From Visible to Non-Existence in an Instant

Not to get too emotional about this and go into victim mode, but if you've also been hacked, here’s a list of what you might have lost. Think of this as the same kind of exercise you go through when you're cataloging valuables for insurance purposes.

What you might lose if your Facebook account vanishes. . .

- ALL Content for personal and business pages, including updates, photos and videos not to mention your info page

- Friend connections [I had 887] and fans on all accounts

- Phone numbers, lots of phone numbers

- Numerous fan page connections with updates to communities and companies

- Group memberships

- Private family pages

- Admin role on client’s pages and SMC Chicago

- Tags in photos

- News feed from friends

- Access to the “walled garden” that is Facebook

- URL, in this case – http://facebook.com/rozgonyi

- Everything going back to the beginning [my Facebook start date: July 2007]

- Convenient access to sites that let you log in via Facebook

- All connections to your account from third-party applications

- A Face on Facebook

Yep, it was a bit painful thinking about all of that. What did I miss?

Living Life without Facebook

Granted it's only Facebook and it's only been five days. Life goes on and my account may be reinstated.

Is is possible to overreact to what may be a minor and temporary interruption of a Facebook account?

What I haven’t expected is the loss my friends and even my family feel. People who have my email address, phone numbers and address [i.e. , these people know how to reach me 24/7 on or offline, or doorbell] are frustrated because they can’t send me messages on Facebook.

Thanks to friends like Tim McDonald who called with some security tips and then said it’s weird not to see you on Facebook. I do feel locked out and left out.

When my daughter said, “Mom, I can’t find you on Facebook anymore,” with genuine dismay, I looked at her and said, “You’re looking right at me. You don’t need to find me on Facebook. “

“But I want to find you on Facebook,” she said. One of my last messages, sent to her, was a link to a post she needed for a school assignment. Yes, we have email and we also text and DM each other. So why do we need another channel?

Is it worthy crying over losing Facebook access? It depends on what the platform means to you and whether or not you’ve backed up your activity. I have to admit this is more emotional and frustrating than I expected it to be. . . especially because I didn't plan ahead. So that this doesn't happen to you, here's a selection of ways to save your profile.

Ways to Back Up Facebook and Save Your Assets

1. Grab the RSS feed for your account, then send it to your reader or your email via feedmyinbox Tip: send feeds to a dedicated email just for that purpose to keep your primary inbox clear.

2. Add on to Firefox. ArchiveFacebook is a free tool that allows you to save content from your Facebook account directly to your hard drive. Archive your photos, messages, activity stream, friends list, notes, events and groups. That's the official description. Note that I got a few warning messages when I tried to install it.

3. Backupify your social media. Ever the optimist, I hoped maybe I had somehow, some way already saved my account with a backup service. Turns out I did set up a Backupify account, which spit back 1616 pages of twitter data, but had nothing on Facebook. Why? Because I didn’t sign up for it.

Backupify is the leading backup provider for cloud based data, offering an all-in-one archiving, search and restore service for the most popular online services including Google Apps, Facebook, Twitter and more. With one account you get centralized access to all of your information, stored securely, easily searchable, and ready for restoration or transfer at a moment's notice. Another official description straight off the site, this tool is one I do use and recommend. You'll want to compare the free and paid versions to see which is best for you and your business.

4. SocialSafe is a digital diary that backs up your profiles and downloads them to you computer.

What other ways can you think of to save and secure social media content?

Will Your Facebook Account Be Restored?

After spending a few hours searching for answers, I was disappointed to find very few instances of restoration. One commenter asked: why you would want to restore a hacked account? Most people I’ve talked to anecdotally say a friend’s account was restored a day or two. But, if your account is restored how likely are you to post that update? [Rest assured, I will.]

How Long Before You Create a New Facebook Account?

If you manage accounts for clients, you’ll need to set up an account so you can check on theirs. Also, the longer you stay away, the more you miss out on what’s going on. The “out of sight, out of mind factor” is huge on social networks. Do you agree?

Reconstructing Your Facebook Profile

If you decided the wait is over and it's time to get started with a new profile, here are a few thoughts on how to reconstruct your account.

Post a WTF update – thanks to Ramon DeLeon for this one. “WTF” means “welcome to Facebook.”

Use the Friend Finder to locate people you want to connect with.

Set up lists to categorize friends. If you didn’t create Facebook friend lists the first time around, now’s your chance to be more organized.

Ask a few friends to post a status saying that you’re back and your friends can friend you at the new profile.

Remember those pictures of you you actually liked being in tagged in? Go back and retag yourself.

Now that you have a fresh profile, you’ll need to go back and change the link everywhere, including on your LinkedIn profile, blog, site and FriendFeed.

And, you'll want to make sure your account is as private and secure as possible. Here's a list to get you started . . .

Facebook Privacy and Security Resources

Did you know that if you use your computer in a place with free wi-fi you're safer surfing with an https connection that makes your connection secure by blocking out outside access?

You can set the Facebook and HTTPS Protocol [via mashable.com] to do that and to alert you when anyone tries to log into your account from another computer or device.

Or, you can secure your browser with the Firefox HTTPS Everywhere Extension or the Google Chrome HTTPS Extension.

Other Facebook security and privacy information you may find helpful . . . .

Facebook implements an account protections security status bar

How to protect your profile security on Facebook

How to Protect Your Facebook Account From Hackers and Phishing Scams

10 privacy settings every Facebook user should know

Prepare Your Company Now for Social Attacks by Jeremiah Owyang

What other help would you offer people who want to secure their social media accounts?