PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A Washougal esthetician has a warning for small business owners about social media security after her business account on Instagram was hacked – leaving her customers out thousands of dollars.
Irina Melnichenko, owner of Trademark Beauty, told KOIN 6 News that running her company isn’t just a way to make a living, but also serves as a way to give back. Melnichenko offers free skincare services to women in difficult circumstances including single moms making ends meet or victims of domestic violence.
“I offer a complimentary 90 minute facial and it’s kind of like a way to let them know that they are not alone — it’s just me giving my time fully without asking for anything in return. And so, the people that follow my account, trust me, and it’s taken me many years to build this trust,” Melnichenko said.
According to Melnichenko, internet hackers relied on that trust to prey on her clients who follow her on Instagram.
On Sunday her account was hacked. The hacker, or hackers, posing as Melnichenko bragged about making big bucks and offered ways for others to cash in as well.
“They started to post that I invested in cryptocurrency or crypto mining, and I put in a thousand dollars and I got back $10,000 in 20 minutes and they posted that to my feed,” Melnichenko said.
Melnichenko said two of her clients fell for it and were cheated out of $2,000.
Another customer lost $3,000. Melnichenko said it is not just money the cyber criminals are after – they’re also trying to hack into the users Instagram account.
“What they do is they say, ‘all we need you to do is send your Cash App information and your phone number, and then we’re going to send you a link. And then when you get this link, send us the link. And then this is going to be how we’re going to put the money into your Cash App,’” Melnichenko explained.
“But what they’re actually doing is they’re trying to get into your Instagram account,” Melnichenko said.
Melnichenko noted that the scammers had a sinister method for fooling her followers.
“They go in and they kind of study your behavior, the verbiage that you use, they continue the conversation. Like I have my sister, they wrote her, ‘Hey, I love you’ and it’s just continuing as if it’s me,” Melnichenko said.
Melnichenko reported the hack to police and the FBI and said she has not heard from any law enforcement.
She created another Instagram account and is trying to reach her followers through that account to let them know about the scam.
According to the FBI, cyber-crimes are on the rise – up 70% from 2019 to 2020.
Phishing scams, like the one Melnichenko described, were in the top three types reported.