Stop Scams podcast: How a home-based baker lost and regained her Instagram account

(From left) ST deputy news editor Andre Yeo, ST reporter Jessie Lim, ST podcast producer Teo Tong Kai, Le Artisserie owner Verena Chin and ST crime correspondent David Sun. ST PHOTO: SOH YU QIANG

SINGAPORE - In September, home-based baker Verena Chin received a message on her Instagram business page from a customer who demanded that she verify her identity. 

The “customer” said Instagram was going to contact her, and asked her to take a screenshot of the message to confirm she was the owner of bakery Le Artisserie. 

Ms Chin was surprised when she instead received a message with a link to reset the password of her Instagram account. 

“I was quite upset. I thought, did they try to change my password? I took a screenshot and sent it to them, not realising there were verification codes above (the message),” she said. “Before I knew it, my account was gone and I was locked out.” 

She talked to The Straits Times in the ninth episode of the Stop Scams podcast, which will be broadcast on Thursday. 

The Stop Scams podcast is a series by ST to raise public awareness of scams.

In Singapore, more than $1 billion has been lost by scam victims since 2016.

At least 110 people have reported being targets of scams involving the takeover of Instagram accounts this year, the police said in November. 

After Ms Chin lost access to her Instagram account, the scammer also changed the mobile number and e-mail linked to it.

However, she managed to recover her account after submitting a request to Instagram on the same day to reverse the change in the e-mail address, so that she could receive a link to reset her password. She regained her account within the next two days.

She said: “I didn’t sleep that night. I was using the time to take a screenshot of my photos and my clients’ testimonials. I was saving all the data I could, thinking I might eventually have to rebuild. 

“And I was thinking a year’s work (on Instagram) gone down the toilet, but what to do?” 

During the podcast, she shared how home-based businesses are affected when they lose their social media accounts.

She noted that the reputation of the business can be at stake and many lose thousands of followers when posts about fraudulent investment schemes start appearing on their Instagram accounts.

Ms Chin lost a few customer orders she was processing just before her account was taken over. 

In the podcast, she also discussed how Instagram users can take steps to recover their accounts, such as by immediately requesting a change in the e-mail address and asking friends to report to Instagram that the account has been hacked. 

Recalling her experience, she said: “It was very painful. I was looking for a help number and there was nothing. It was really frustrating as the slower you are, the more information on your page will be changed. They change your photo, make your account private and trick Instagram into thinking this account belongs to them.” 

She advised Instagram users to have complex passwords and to keep the authentication codes for resetting passwords, so that they can use them when necessary.

“It can be a sentence that is meaningful to you and you just add upper-case letters, numbers and signs,” she said.

“I was lucky because I was able to get back the business account quickly. I’m now a lot more careful when I read messages from customers.” 

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