Hackers Are Snatching High-Profile Instagram Accounts

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In the Wild West of “influencer” marketing, there are few protections and plenty of easy marks. Hackers sometimes create their own fake brands to phish influencers, but often they pretend to be representatives from real companies, this is according to a new report by TheAtlantic

“They’ll set up some sort of username that’s something that seems like it would be legit, like @LuluLemonAmbassadors,” he said. “They’ll use all the company logos, make it seem as legit as possible, make the bio seem normal. Use the company’s mission statement. It’s super simple.”

Once hackers gain control of an influencer’s account, said Moritz von Contzen, founder of the Dutch social-media agency Avenik, they’ll often hop into the account’s direct messages and begin spamming other influencers with the same phishing links before the hacked influencer even knows what’s happening.

Von Contzen said he sees this scam play out over and over again. He even fell for it once.

For young influencers with no direct contacts at Instagram or Facebook, it can be nearly impossible to retrieve a stolen account. Hackers will change the contact email address and phone number and reset the username so the account is impossible to find. Then, they’ll run ads on it until they can sell the whole page off for a large price, sometimes more than a hundred thousand dollars.

In the meantime, influencers are banding together via group chats and Facebook groups to alert each other of potential scams. Talent managers and publicists say they’re cross-checking every potential brand deal.

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