‘This is my biggest regret’: Home-based baker in SG recounts losing Instagram account to scammer

Scammers used Faisel’s hijacked Instagram account to advertise fake investment schemes to his 5,000 followers. — ALPHONSUS CHERN/The Straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE: When Faisel Mohamed, 45, received an order for kueh lapis, which he sells through his Instagram account, the home-based baker did not expect to lose access to the account.

It all began on Sept 10, when he received an order from a customer who demanded that he would pay only after Faisel verified his identity as a genuine seller.

The customer claimed he wanted the verification because he previously did not receive items he ordered from other home-based businesses via Instagram.

The customer told Faisel to take a screenshot of an Instagram message he will receive and forward it to him.

Faisel did as he was asked.

But he later received an email from Instagram informing him that a user in Nigeria had changed his log-in details.

It was then that he realised he had been scammed.

The screenshot he had sent to the supposed customer contained a link from Instagram to reset his password. The scammer used it and locked Faisel out of his account.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Faisel said: “It slipped my mind to check the link. I was so busy chatting online with a few customers at the same time.

“If only I had thought before I pressed ‘send’. This is my biggest regret.”

Scammers used his hijacked Instagram account to advertise fake investment schemes and contests to his 5,000 followers.

In an Instagram post that has since been deleted, the scammer claimed he made US$10,000 (RM46,370) from a US$500 (RM2,318) investment by following the advice of an investment guru.

Faisel said: “A lot of my followers unfollowed me. As a home-based business, I depend on my followers, who are my loyal customers.

“I’ve stopped taking orders completely. I don’t know how much of my baking supplies to buy. I can’t deliver just a few orders. It would be too expensive.”

Faisel has tried many ways to reclaim his account, including sending Instagram a photo of himself holding his NRIC and a video selfie. But so far, he has been unsuccessful in confirming that he is the genuine owner of the account.

Faisel said: “I’m at my wits’ end. Even if I create a new account, how can I gain back my followers? The Instagram algorithm has changed and it is much more difficult now.”

The police confirmed that a report has been lodged and are looking into the matter.

Strategy professor Lawrence Loh from National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School said Instagram users with a sizeable following, such as home-based businesses, are easy targets for scammers.

He recalled how Natthamon Khongchak, the Thai social media celebrity known online as Nutty, allegedly cheated thousands of her followers in a foreign exchange investment scam involving 2bil baht (RM246.23mil). Thai police issued an arrest warrant in August for the influencer, whose whereabouts are still unknown.

Prof Loh said: “Instagram accounts with large followings appear legitimate to those who follow them.

“Home-based businesses are also not large enough that they would have the resources to take action against scammers even if they lose their accounts.”

Although data on the home-based business industry in Singapore is not available, there were 224,400 micro enterprises registered here in 2020, according to the Department of Statistics. Such companies make less than S$1mil (RM3.23mil) a year.

Meta, Instagram’s parent company, said that it continues to protect its users from hackers and scams. The company is aware of Faisel’s case and is in the process of recovering his account.

Faisel said he checks his email every 15 minutes hoping to hear that his account has been restored.

He said: “I gave away the link to reset my password. Instagram may not know that it is a different person accessing my account. It would be hard for them to tell that something wrong has happened.” – The Straits Times (Singapore)/Asia News Network

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