“I am contesting for an ambassadorship for an influencer program, and can you please vote for me?”, asked an old friend on my insta messenger. This friend is an avid wildlife photographer and I immediately responded saying I would definitely vote for him.
He then went on to ask for my phone number so that he could send me the entry link through SMS and I will just need to take a screenshot of the link and send it to him. It seemed odd that he was asking for my number when he should have had it – and weirder still was the fact that he wanted to send the link on SMS – why not insta I wondered. But I was busy those days and did not think much of this and just sent him my phone number once more. (BIG MISTAKE – never do it)
I rarely check my SMSs nowadays – what with whatsapp and other means of chatting, but looked through my SMS inbox later, and found a weird sort of message with some insta link. Not sure if this is what he wanted – I just took a screenshot (as he had requested) and sent it on his Whatsapp chat (instead of the insta chat). I did not know then – but this action saved me!
He told me that I should search You Tube on how to recover a hacked Instagram account since his own Instagram had been hacked and it was actually the hacker talking to me! In much the same way, he had been contacted by a friend on his Instagram chat – and assuming it was authentic – he shared his screenshot with the hacker and got hacked himself.
For days, I remained scared, wondering if my insta could still get hacked and cursed myself for sharing my phone number with the hacker. However, luckily nothing happened, and I still have access to my account.
To understand what really happened, I did some search and was shocked to find out how common this new method of hacking had become globally. Down to the message I received, the modus operandi was being followed everywhere. Seeing the exact message that I received – in another post, literally sent chills down my spine. Hence, I am writing this post – to warn all the readers, that this is something that can easily happen and how to avoid it.
So how does this work?
- Once the hacker takes control of one account, s/he starts to send messages to their contacts, asking them to send screenshots of the link. Typically, they will ask you NOT to click on the link, but just to send a screenshot. In my case, the hacker said that he will first verify the link and then I should click on it.
- The link is actually from Instagram and meant for people who have lost or forgotten their password. If you click on it – it will take you to the password reset page. (I never clicked mine).
- Once you send the screenshot to the hacker – they will manually enter the link on their browser and get access to your account and then go on to change passwords etc. so you are not able to access your account anymore.
- Once they have hacked your account – they will start contacting your friends for similar screenshots and the cycle continues.
Do’s and Don’ts
- NEVER click on unknown links and never forward them either.
- ALWAYS read any emails carefully – check the sender’s address. Don’t respond if anything at all sounds fishy – I do all of that and still almost fell for this hacker’s tricks.
- DO NOT send screenshots of links or other info to anyone.
- If you are not sure about any message or request, double check with that person through another medium. This is what saved me.
- DO enable two factor authentication and keep those codes safely.
- DO put up a few selfies or videos of yourself on your insta – if your account is hacked, you will need to send selfies to Instagram, to confirm this is you. (Something I need to do myself!)
Different Hackers, Different Techniques
People are getting hacked in many different ways, and what I shared was just one. In this past year, I must have received many phishing emails in my official email account which I always dutifully share with our IT. Any weird personal email and I never touch it. Once, I received a very legit sounding email from a bank – asking me to click some link – but since I didn’t have an account with that bank – I knew it was a scam. More recently, I received an email from Netflix – which recorded a chat someone had with them pretending to be me – they wanted to change the password – but thanks to their verification protocols, the hacker was unable to get access and my Netflix account is still mine. So, yes, there is danger everywhere!
Most of these Social Media apps do not have enough support for people who have been hacked – and many have been unable to recover their accounts including my friend above. Better be safe than sorry – an age-old adage that perfectly applies in this case. Having a digital presence also means that you need to be as careful as when crossing through a minefield.
I hope this has helped you and made you more aware about some of the risks out there. Stay Safe and spread the word!
Please read this post and share it as much as possible to warn your friends and family.
Sharing below some other experiences that you can read through.
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