Urgent warning issued to Australian Instagram users over an alarming scam
A Brisbane mom has revealed how cybercriminals stole $24,000 from her loyal followers after hacking into her social media accounts.
Anna Van Dijk runs the popular online store ‘Lunchbox Mini’ where she sells various lunch boxes, water bottles, coffee cups and cooler bags.
In February, her Instagram account was targeted by cybercriminals who stole thousands of her loyal followers using a fake bitcoin scheme.
In just seven days, the fraudsters defrauded a dozen Australian mothers out of $24,000 as Ms Van Dijk desperately tried to regain control of her account.
Anna Van Dijk (pictured) runs the popular online store ‘Lunchbox Mini’ where she sells a variety of lunch boxes, water bottles, coffee cups and cooler bags
Scammers told Ms. Van Dijk’s followers that they could make $7,000 in just two hours if they invested $1,000 (photo, a message sent by the scammers to a victim)
She explained that the hackers had impersonated the Meta group that own Instagram and Facebook, and sent her an email informing her that one of her Instagram posts had been flagged for copyright issues.
The email said she had 24 to 48 hours to click the button to “dispute” the claims before her account would be deactivated or deleted forever.
Within two minutes of clicking the button, Brisbane’s mother received an email informing her that her Instagram password and email address had been changed.
“It was seven long days for me,” Ms Van Dijk told the Daily Mail Australia.
“I knew people lost money every day.”
The scammers tricked the mothers into investing in fake bitcoin schemes, telling the women that they could make $7,000 in two hours if they invested $1,000.
In February, the Brisbane mother of two’s Instagram account was targeted by cybercriminals who stole thousands of her loyal followers using a fake bitcoin scheme
At least a dozen moms who followed the Lunchbox Mini account were fooled into “investing” $1000 of their hard-earned savings, one of whom was pregnant with her third child
They went out of their way to forge bank and commercial statements with Ms. Van Dijk’s name on them to try and prove the plan was legitimate.
At least a dozen moms were fooled into “investing” $1,000 of their hard-earned savings, one of whom was pregnant with her third child.
She told the scammers, who she believed to be Mrs. Van Dijk, that the extra money could mean her hard-working husband could spend more time with the baby.
The fraudsters, posing as the mother of two, told the woman they “swear on my children’s lives” that she would see a return on her investments.
After the mothers initially transferred $1,000, they were asked to spend another $7,000 to access the money.
The scammers guaranteed they would receive $30,000 if they invested $7,000, with most moms smelling a rat at this point and backing out.
However, one woman lost a total of $8,000 – money she had borrowed from relatives – and none of the victims had any of their money back.
Ms Van Dijk said she spent three ‘heartbreaking’ hours assessing the damage on her Instagram page and sent a personal voicemail to apologize to the victims
The scammers tricked the moms into investing in fake bitcoin schemes and told the women they could make $7,000 in two hours if they invested $1,000
Ms Van Dijk said she spent three “heartbreaking” hours assessing the damage on her Instagram page and sent a personal voicemail to apologize to the victims.
Some women had blocked her after realizing their money would never come back with scams costing the business owner hundreds of followers.
She became aware of the scam that dominated her Instagram page through posts on Facebook and her website.
THE EXPERT’S BEST TIPS FOR AVOIDING HACKING:
1. Create a human firewall by educating yourself and employees.
2. Protect passwords by using multi-factor authentication and updating passwords regularly.
3. Limit hotspot exposure on a secure account instead of logging into public Wi-Fi.
4. Be prepared by having a backup account handy and knowing what it takes to get your account back.
5. Pay for cyber protection insurance.
6. Update company policies and procedures to prevent and correct suspicious behavior.
The majority came from women who had invested money and wanted updates on the return, or from concerned husbands who wanted to confirm it was legit.
On February 18, Ms Van Dijk took to her Instagram Stories to announce that she had regained control of her account, a video she said was “etched into her memory.”
She apologized to her followers for having to endure the endless bitcoin spam, saying it had been “the hardest part” knowing they had been contacted.
Brisbane’s mother said she could only regain control of her account after reaching out to a family friend with an Instagram contact.
She uses authenticator apps on her phone that require a six-digit number to log into her Instagram account from another device.
Ms. Van Dijk believes her small business has been targeted by cybercriminals because of her highly engaged and loyal following.
“Instagram will reward you and bring you out when you have a high level of engagement on your account,” she explains.
“And these mothers trusted me.”
It comes as experts warn that small businesses on social media remain an easy target for scammers with increasing cyber-attacks.
Business Australia General Manager Products Phil Parisis said he has seen an increase in the number of accounts being infiltrated by hackers to scam their customers.
“Many small businesses rely on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for much of their marketing or to keep in touch with their customers — and cybercriminals are increasingly seeing this as an easy target,” he said.
Business Australia General Manager Products Phil Parisis (pictured) said he has seen an increase in the number of accounts being infiltrated by hackers to scam their customers
“One click is all it takes to lose everything.”
Australians lost more than $8 million in social network scams last month, nearly four times as much as in the same period of the previous record year.
There is also a 40% spike in the number of reported attacks.
Last July, the Australian Cyber Security Center (ACSC) reported a 60 percent increase in ransomware attacks against Australian entities.
In September, the ACSC estimated that organizations and individuals had paid $33 billion in the past year, either to hackers or to costs related to the attacks.