In Singapore, we are no strangers to scams from fake phone calls, SMS and emails to deals that are too good to be true. These ever-evolving scams truly keep us on our toes. However, there is a new type of Instagram scam that has hit many small businesses and affected their livelihood.
Instagram (IG) has become an important platform for many artisanal small businesses in Singapore and many other countries. These small businesses rely heavily on IG as their main mode of communication and order collection with their followers as their main customer base.
Recently, a scheme has been going on that specifically targets small businesses and takes over their Instagram accounts. A fellow home-based artisanal cake store that provides amazing customized cakes (@candyqbakes.sg) was hacked on the 24th of September. She was previously known as @candyqbakes, an account that she now no longer controls. She lost many painstakingly designed posts, highlights and most importantly, her followers.
Attached below are some screenshots provided by @candyqbakes.sg of her conversations with another scammer who was using a similar method. In summary, an authentic-looking Instagram account was posted as an interested buyer of her products. These scammers are very convincing and go as far as to ask questions and even provide their delivery address and phone number etc. Once they have placed their order, they would proceed to mention a sob story about how they have been scammed by small home-based businesses in the past and hope for some form of authentication of ownership to the account.
The scammer mentions that they had requested Instagram to send an SMS to the actual owner of the Instagram account and requests a screenshot of the message to prove the authenticity of the account before making payment. The screenshot contains the password reset link to their Instagram account, which the scammer then promptly uses to change the password and take over the account.
Once the account is taken over, the scammer then proceeds to scam its followers with investments-related scams through posts or direct messages. Some even attempt to use the account to take over even more accounts. Many small businesses have attempted to recover their account but to no avail. After speaking with @candybakes.sg, she still sounds very positive and just wishes that her followers would know that @candyqbakes is no longer operational. She also hopes to warn other small businesses not to fall for this scheme.
Another home influencer account also encountered a scammer posting as another influencer account attending a competition and asking for her support. While the storyline differs, the method of requiring the Instagram owner to screenshot the reset password link is still consistent.
Tips on How to Protect Your Account
Scammers and hackers are always coming up with new tricks and schemes, so it is essential to be mindful and to keep your account safe.
- Set up two-factor authentication
- Never click on any suspicious links received via direct message, email or SMS
- Do not send anyone private information.
- Keep Calm and Sell!
By setting up your two-factor authentication, you will be able to see any login requests, remove trusted devices and access backup codes for your account if you have any issues with receiving a recovery code.
To set it up, simply go to Settings → Security → Two-Factor Authentication → Get started!
Beware of any phishing links that are sent to you through Instagram direct messages even from users that you know. If you receive a suspicious link from a trusted friend, drop them a call or text to confirm if it is really them. It might be a replicated fake account or they have been hacked. Always double-check any links before clicking on them.
Do not reveal any private information such as name, credit card number, passwords or OTP to anyone. While we are sure everyone is aware of this, it is sometimes very easy to forget.
While closing a sale is always exciting, it is important to stay calm and be wary when making a sale directly on Instagram. Always look into the customer's Instagram account and be vigilant about their requests. Do not be overly excited to close the deal.
Digital scams are aplenty in this era. As online business owners, it is crucial that we keep abreast of such scams such that we do not fall prey to them, especially when it affects one’s livelihood. Follow The Collective for more relevant articles concerning artisanal businesses in Singapore!