Dorset shop owner warns others after he fell victim to a creepy Instagram scam

A shop owner has warned other business owners not to trust anyone online after her shop’s Instagram account was hacked. Jessica Parish fell for the “creepy” scam in February, and despite many efforts couldn’t get the account back three months later.

“You just can’t trust someone who sends you direct messages,” she warned others.

Jessica owns and runs Shoreside, a beach shop in Swanage. She built her Instagram account and enjoyed using social media to promote her business. However, in February, she received a message from a local charity account with a harmless cryptic word.

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She said, “When they [the hacker] sent me a first message, it was a Wordle from someone I thought was a friend. They [ the hacker] obviously thought ‘she’s the kind of person who would like to do a word puzzle’, and I was! That’s how they hooked me into a conversation.

“I gave – without realizing it – secure access to my Instagram account, so they then took over my account. The system that Instagram has in place to recover your account then thinks that you are the hacker and blocking you from accessing it.”

The scam recently made national headlines for the sinister way scammers take control of accounts. Using an account they have already hacked, scammers send messages to subscribers who would trust the original account holder.

The hacker says he will send the follower a link or code, and asks the follower to resend it. However, the link is sent by the hacker by clicking on “Forgot password?”, prompting to send a password reset code from Instagram to the subscriber. This code allows them to reset the follower’s account password – and allows them to take over the account.

Jessica said: “It’s scary isn’t it? It’s awful. I’m scared that someone will get caught because they’ve been messaging people pretending to be me and that someone is going to lose money.

“They use my language, so they studied my way of speaking and the language that I used in my posts in the past. A friend of mine said that they messaged her: ‘Can you give me a service ?””

Jessica says she’s tried to get her account back or have it deleted any way she can, but hasn’t had any luck so far. She feels saddened by the incident, as Instagram had been “quite fun” and a way for her to share community events. The account had also brought customers to his shop.

She may also see the hacker impersonating her by posting from her account and trying to scam her followers. However, she finds that she cannot create a new account for her store.

“I haven’t created a new Instagram account yet, because how can I do that? They have the company name, they have everything,” she said. “If I start a new one, how is anyone going to know which one is the real one? I can say ‘it’s been hacked’, but it doesn’t look really professional. It’s not not very good for your reputation.

“I’ve been in contact with Action Fraud – they’ve been very helpful, they’re collecting information on this. A lot of people have been hit harder because they’ve lost thousands of pounds, because they’ve been taken by the investing money [scams]. It’s about investing in Bitcoin.”

Although she wants to warn other businesses about the scam, she has no bad feelings towards the scammers – although she admits she would feel differently if they had managed to steal her money. “If they have a shitty life and it’s their job…I can’t hate them for it,” she said.

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