It’s an old rule in comic books: Never believe something is truly gone if there’s no body. And even then, just wait. That's what came to mind when Time Warp Comics and Games in Boulder went radio (or internet) silent at the end of January. There were rumors of Time Warp’s demise, but thankfully, this wasn't the case: The store was the victim of an extreme Facebook hack.
The hack began with some emails most Facebook users are familiar with — messages that say someone’s tried to access your account. Most users often dismiss these as spam phishing spoofs.
The hackers managed to “so spectacularly violate Facebook's terms of service,” according to Time Warp’s Markus Leben, that all associated accounts were impossible to access. The accounts were still on Facebook, so customers could still see them and had no way of knowing that anything was amiss. It just looked to outside eyes as though there were no updates, no activity of any sort.
So began a month-long odyssey for both Winsett and Time Warp to regain access to the respective Facebook profiles. The incident meant more than just losing the store's primary method to reach customers with news and announcements and fan-related topics. Facebook was also the platform for the bi-weekly stream sales that have helped Time Warp survive the pandemic retail environment of the past couple of years.
“They’ve been so important,” says Winsett. “When customers couldn’t come in, our saving grace were these stream sales. They really saved my bacon.” He estimates that the two stream sales the store ran every other Tuesday evening paid for a significant portion of Time Warp's monthly rent.
“It was so frustrating,” Winsett says. “[Facebook] sent me a message that said my account was under review, but there was no way to contact anyone with questions. That email said they’d be in touch in one business day about the status of the case, but it took them over a month to finally send that. Meanwhile, I heard nothing at all.” It was already irritating enough to know they hadn’t done anything wrong, he adds, but they weren't even given the ability to prove that.
“Not having the two or three stream sales that we’ve missed [was] definitely felt financially," Winsett says. "And that’s not even the worst part. The worst part was not engaging with our customers. We have locals, sure, but a lot of people from Denver and other parts of Colorado and even out of state. The chat is very lively and lots of fun every week. Getting all those folks together isn’t just cool, it’s important.”
Things are only just now getting back on track. “I finally got that email Facebook had initially promised, saying that they’d made a final decision to keep those pages closed, and not to re-establish access at all. So once we got that, we had to start over again.” The store has a new Facebook account and has been working to spread the word to customers both old and new.
The popular stream sales will also be coming back — the first will be Tuesday, March 8, from 4 to 6 p.m., and will continue every other Tuesday thereafter. “I’m really looking forward to getting everyone back together," Winsett says. "The store needs these stream sales, but our customers need them, too. It’ll be good to be back.”
As for any lessons learned from this experience?
“Change your passwords,” Winsett urges. “Trust me on this.”
Time Warp Comics and Games is at 3105 28th Street in Boulder. For more information or to join the stream sale, check out the shop's new Facebook page or its website.