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A new, more advanced hacker community is costing 100s of Indians their Instagram accounts

Dristi Sharma
Dristi SharmaOct 16, 2022 | 19:00

A new, more advanced hacker community is costing 100s of Indians their Instagram accounts

Instagram has become our go-to app for everything from reels to DMs and our doom scrolling never ends. As of January 2022, India had a total of 230.25 million Instagram users, the largest Instagram audience in the world. Even though Instagram is known to generally be a safe app to use, a new group of hackers are targetting some Indian accounts.

In fact, these hackers are using Instagram to bait hundreds of its victims which results in Indians losing their accounts and in worst cases money as well. 

Let's look at some numbers to understand the rate of cybercrime in our country. NCRB recently released data for crime rates across the country. The overall rates of cybercrime have increased drastically in India, according to a government source.

Now, if we just look at the fraud cases, a survey conducted by a private firm, Local Circles, has shown that 42% of Indians surveyed experienced financial fraud in the last 3 years, and 74% of those who experienced it failed to get the money back.

It is 2022, and people are becoming more attentive and don't usually share their card details with anyone over the phone. But scammers have also changed their ways of trapping people with it. 

Prerna Singh, a 21-year-old student, replied to one of her friends' stories on September 8th, 2022. The story goes something like this, “Reply to my story with the correct answer and I will transfer you 10k”. 

For Prerna, it was more like a prank, but soon it ended up costing her her Instagram account after she decided to listen to her friend (whose account was also hacked) and followed her instructions like changing the email address linked to her account.

"I tried all the possible methods but couldn't revive my account. I sent an email to Instagram, and also tried video recognition, but nothing worked,” she said.

"I don't recall opening my Instagram account for the whole day as I was busy with my work. It was in the evening when I realised my Instagram account was hacked when my friends started texting me," said Pooja Patel, a journalist from Mumbai whose account was hacked. 

After being hacked, Pooja's Instagram account was filled with posts and stories that asked people to "invest money" in accounts that she hasn't heard of previously. In a recent story on her account, the followers are being asked to solve problems in exchange for money.

Name removed for protecting the identity

Recently, a lot of Instagram accounts have been hacked. In another such incident, on September 4, 2022, Ashvita Chetan Patil, 29, received a link on Instagram from from her sister-in-law,  Zainab Sayyed's, account (whose account was also hacked) to solve a puzzle. After getting clicking on the link to solve the puzzle, (which Ashvita trusted), her account was hacked and she was unable to access her account.  

The hacker has now access to Ashvita's Instagram account and her account also looks the same as Pooja's. The hacker is asking everyone to invest money in a specific form of crypto/business. 

Ashvita, while talking to dailyO, said that for more credibility, the hacker even used the screenshots of a mobile phone, with the "wallpaper of Ashvita and her husband".

Getting scammed online is not a new thing in India, but with time the process of harm has evolved. Over years, the types of scams have also evolved. But two of them have resurfaced time and again:

 

One can avoid scams, through various ways: Anil Kumar Yadav, IPS, Additional DCP for crime and cybercrime, while speaking to dailyO said, that one can have "two-step authentication to avoid scams on social media." Another easy step will be to use special characters and play around with your password and avoid buying on apps which doesn't look authentic and hence avoid clicking on such links. 

Mr Kumar says, "The internet is a huge space, and people nowadays are on the dark web which makes our work even more difficult." He adds that the police right now are working on making a database for such fishy numbers and links which will help the users to avoid such scams. 

 

*Name changed to protect identity

Last updated: October 16, 2022 | 19:00
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