Instagram hacker stole at least $60k from victims

James Tuliano

While browsing on Instagram, I noticed that an account that I follow was posting some unusual content.

The account, which belongs to an old friend that I fell out of contact with, has previous posts that are full of travel photos and him hanging out with his friends. Today, he posted a screenshot of his phone's lock screen, with a notification saying that he just received close to $10k on CashApp. The caption is him saying that he can't believe how easy it was to make this money and thanked his "coach", whom he tagged.

There are numerous comments on the post saying that they can't believe that it actually worked and that their "coach" is the real deal.

Immediately, I knew that his account was compromised, but I decided to play along to try to understand how the scam works.

Before I did anything else, I notified my old friend on Facebook and reported the account. He responded by confirming that his account was hacked and thanked me for reporting it.

I messaged the Instagram account saying "You got hacked, sir" knowing that he would likely not see it. I got a reply almost instantly.
The first contact the scammer had with meAuthor

My "friend" assures me that he is not joking.

I curiously asked the scammer "How do we know each other" to see what he would respond with, as only my friend would know the answer to that question. The scammer read it and just didn't respond.


I follow the directions that the scammer gave me and I messaged the "coach" he suggested.

The coach's account that I am messaging has not posted since October, 2021. The previous posts on the account appear to be someone celebrating a wedding, selfies, and fashion-oriented content. It is clear that this was once a legitimate account but was compromised just like my friend's account.

I have reported both of the accounts, but it is clear that Instagram is dragging its feet to take action on it. In fact, if you go to the most recent post on the account (which appears to have been posted before the account was hacked) you can read comments from people, complaining that the account supports scammers, as far back as six weeks ago.
The legitimate account owner posted a photo of their wedding 3 months ago. It is the latest photo on the account. Here are the comments.Author

This means that, for at least six weeks, this account was hacked, and Instagram has allowed this compromised account to scam people.

Now, I have no doubt Instagram gets an ungodly number of reports every day, and the whole process takes time, but six weeks is unacceptable.

It is worth noting that it is extremely unlikely that the actual person this account belongs to has anything to do with the scam, and they are likely a victim themselves as their account has been hacked and taken over. Do not put any blame on the person the account previously belonged to, as some of the people in the comments do.

After the scammer got into the account, they changed the handle, story highlights, and bio.
You can see that the hacker did not change the titles of the story highlights, so they do not match what they are advertising.Author

I decided to message the scammer and see exactly how they were going to make me a millionaire. The scam was a lot more straightforward than I expected.
I play along with the scammer to try to get more information.Author

This is called the "money flip" scam, and it works exactly how you'd expect. You send the scammer money, and you won't get any back.

The scammer instructs me to buy bitcoin, and I send him a fake screenshot of a bitcoin wallet appearing to have $1000 to send.

Finally, the scammer sends me a wallet address to send the bitcoin to. I look up to see the activity of the wallet, and I am incredibly shocked.
The activity of the wallet that the scammer sent me.Author

The scammer's wallet has received a total of 1.62 BTC, which currently converts to over $62k. This scammer has likely stolen a lot of money.

The scammer kept asking me if I have sent the funds yet. Stalling for time, I sent the scammer a URL that I pretended was relevant to the conversation.

The URL was a Grabify link, which if the scammer was stupid enough to click, it would tell me his IP address and location.

Which of course, he did.
The last entry is the scammer's information.Author

The scammer is located in Lagos, Nigeria.

Satisfied with the information that I obtained, I decided to let the scammer know that I am aware of what this is, and politely ask if I could possibly ask a few more questions so that I can understand how the scam operates.

The negotiation doesn't go too well.
Note that the scammer laugh reacted to my message saying that I have his IP address.Author

The scammer starts out still going along with the scam, but it appears that he slowly begins to understand that I know exactly what this is.

Finally, the scammer wants to cut me a deal in exchange for information.
Something tells me that I likely won't get much information even if I sent him the money.Author

Shortly after the above conversation, the scammer blocked me.

Internet scams that are being run from Nigeria aren't an uncommon occurrence. If you notice strange activity coming from one of your friend's accounts, contact them outside of Instagram to let them know that their account may have been hacked.

And of course, do not send any money to people who claim they are going to give you an unrealistic return on investment. Report any accounts that you see advertising these types of scams and stay alert when something just doesn't feel right.

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James Tuliano is an independent journalist from Cary, North Carolina. Tuliano is interested in covering the community, business, scams, and current events.

Cary, NC

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