Fake Bitcoin Scam Uses Instagram to Steal Acounts

Laynie Erickson

Laynie Erickson, CNW Reporter

Instagram users beware! The popular social media site has been flooded with get rich quick opportunities. However, Instagram users are not getting rich, they are getting scammed. Hackers are taking advantage of the public’s general uncertainty as it pertains to bitcoin and the emerging cryptocurrency market, and using this confusion to lure victims.

The scam starts with Instagram users seeing some of their friends and people they follow post about Bitcoin and boast all about the money they are making investing in the cryptocurrency. Posts can contain pictures of Mercedes and even new homes that the user is claiming they have been able to purchase in a very short period of time after investing in bitcoin. Often their posts are followed by a direct message, with the hacker impersonating their “friends”, urging them to also take advantage of this bitcoin opportunity. While most people would have their guard up if this kind of easy money opportunity came across their social media accounts, because these messages are coming from people they follow and presumably know and trust, it makes users far more susceptible to the scam. What they don’t realize is the people they are talking to aren’t who they think they are, but instead are hackers who have taken over the accounts of their friends and followers.

Daulton Lootens, a recent graduate of CWU, experienced a direct message just like this. The imposter dm’d him from an account of a close friend who Lootens trusted. “He offers me money to help him advertise by going into my Instagram settings and changing my email contact to a different email that he gives me. And once I change the email he then is able to go in and change all my passwords and I’m immediately logged out of my account.”

College sophomore Brevan Bae had a similar experience and after changing his password began to feel uneasy and immediately tried to change it back. “I changed it back right away but I was too late and it didn’t work.”

When users lose control of their Instagram account, the hacker will start impersonating them, using their account to post all about Bitcoin opportunities, and now reaching out to their followers in an attempt to do the exact same thing, and thus the cycle continues.

However, sometimes it doesn’t end there. In the case of many users, like CWU alum Will Ortner, the hacker will resort to extortion. “My girlfriend was not happy with me losing my account so we dm’d my hijacked account from her Instagram account asking to get it back, and he said he would for $60. It wasn’t something I would usually do, but my girlfriend kept chirping at me and I panicked and ended up sending the $60 in Bitcoin he requested. After receiving it, he didn’t give the account back and immediately blocked my girlfriend’s account.”

While this scam is running rampant on Instagram, users have complained that Instagram has been very little help in their attempts to get their account back. Brevan Bea said, “Instagram didn’t do anything about it even after emailing them over and over again so I had to end up making a new account.”

Gracen Bayer, Social Media Manager for 88.1 the Burg, offers these suggestions for Instagram users to avoid falling victim to scams. These include turning on two factor authentication so every time a new device logs into an Instagram users account, the user will receive a one time code to enter to ensure it is them. Bayer additionally recommends “a strong password as well” and reminds users, “if something sounds too good to be true…it probably is.”