An online investment scam hacked a Mississauga woman’s Instagram account and used her followers in a twisted scheme that cost them thousands of dollars.
A Black Mirror Scenario
Sharon Mudavanhu from Mississauga has over 82,000 followers on her Instagram account @YogaColourist. Many of her followers are her clients and customers, people who trust her because they know her well. Unfortunately, she lost access to her account on October 15 when hackers took over her page and used it to run an investment scam. Her account was turned private and the hackers started posting about ways to invest and make money, with one post boldly stating, “if you want to invest and increase your money 5/10 times within 1-2 hours, contact Emma!”. A certain Emma Ramirez with a bio that says she is a full-time Forex trader, is tagged in the post. Upon seeing the screengrab from her then privatized account, Mudavanhu thought that nobody will fall for it as it clearly looks like a scam. She found out later that some of her followers thought it was legitimate as the posts were posted on her account.
Uncovering A Nightmare
An acquaintance later informed Mudavanhu that the hackers were talking to her via DM and conversing as though they were Mudavanhu herself. Mudavanhu then tried to contact both Facebook support and Instagram support but neither platform responded to her. After this, she found out that one of her followers lost US$10,000 on top of some other of her followers losing thousands as well. This was when she realized the real gravity of the situation and how crucial it is for her to get back her account so that the scammers cannot further trick people into thinking that they are talking to her. Her latest tally is that 7 people have been affected so far and they collectively lost US$23,000. This figure does not include one of her followers who is declining to disclose what she lost, simply saying that she had lost everything.
How the Scammers Attacked
The scammers contacted Mudavanhu’s followers and told them that the minimum investment in the alleged investment scheme was $1,000. Sarah, one of Sharon’s followers from the United States says that she lost more than what she can comfortably lose although she isn’t someone new to investing in legitimate ventures. After seeing the posts on Mudavanhu’s Instagram, she reached out to Emma Ramirez and pursued the investment opportunity thinking that it must be legitimate since it looked like Sharon was endorsing it. She later shared that she wouldn’t have given Emma Ramirez her money if this wasn’t the case.
The scammers made use of the fact that Sharon had a loyal base of followers who trust her. Building from the relationship that Sharon has with her followers, they took advantage of her trustworthiness and thus were able to get a significant amount of money in a short span of time.
As of now, Facebook which owns Instagram is working on restoring Sharon’s account and the banks are trying to trace where the money went. Meanwhile, she made a new Instagram account to warn people as well as try to minimize the damage to her reputation brought on by this turn of events.
How to Avoid Falling for Social Media Scams?
Scammers are able to put their schemes into action when given the opportunity. Proper account security is a must to avoid hacking incidents. If you’re worried about being a target for online scammers, we can help you secure your social media accounts with a security audit. This is one of our top Mississauga private investigator services. If you’ve been a victim of such scammers, we can also help you trace who they might be and help you investigate fraud. Contact us at Haywood Hunt & Associates today!