A new scam is making the rounds, and it’s targeting local business owners on Instagram.
For many local businesses, Instagram has become a huge way to advertise and connect with the community, as a window into sales. That’s what this scam appears to be preying on.
It’s leaving the victims not only helpless, but feeling guilty that they can’t stop it from spreading.
Justine Murray owns the store La Chic Boutique in Sandpoint, and she’s built them a significant following on Instagram, always sharing the new clothes, accessories and gifts they sell.
She says she’s pretty savvy online, and knows the phishing scams to avoid on Facebook, but last month she got a message on Instagram, that she thought was from a friend.
It read, “Hey! Sorry to bother you. I’m trying to login my Instagram on my new phone, it won’t work. It says I should find a user who can help me get the link to verify my account. Will you?”
Thinking the message was from a friend, she went through the little process. In a matter of minute, she realized her friend had been hacked, and by clicking the link, she had let the hackers take over her account too. They quickly changed her password and kicked her out.
“Your whole account shuts down and becomes this Bitcoin scam of stories for a few days,” Justine explained. “And then once they quit posting the stories, that’s given you time to tell your friends and connections that you’ve been hacked. That’s when they start the second part of this hack, and start sending messages from your page, acting like they’re you – trying to get back into your account, and a lot of people thought it was me trying to get back in.”
Justine says using her account, these hackers have taken over at least 4 other local business’s pages. While she and the other pages have tried contacting Instagram, they haven’t had much luck.
Now, between hundreds of people reporting the page as a scam, or maybe just the hackers giving up, Justine’s page has finally been shut down.
She says the idea of starting over online is daunting, but she really just doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else.
“I just feel like people need to know, because you totally get locked out, and we have not been able to get it back,” Justine said. “Luckily for us we don’t have our Instagram hooked up to online shopping, so that’s kind of what I’m scared of for other people that may be hacked. If you have a card on there, or you take Instagram payments through anything, ultimately you could have your cards compromised too, and it could be more financial.”
Justine says one weird thing these scammers have been doing is adding underscores to the names of Instagram pages once they take over. It’s not a sure-fire way to spot them, but it’s something to keep an eye out for.
The best thing you can do to stay safe online is to never trust a link anyone sends you over social media, unless you can verify its legitimacy elsewhere. Even if it seems to come from a friend.