Weird ransom demands on Insta model
TODAY'S hackers have found a new way of blackmailing - they're targeting high-profile Instagram influencers.
If they don't follow through with money they demand, they delete their account, from images to contacts and overall content.
Georgia Thomas is the latest influencer to fall victim to hackers.
The 27-year old received an email saying if she didn't comply with their demands within three hours which included sending a message to their email, they would not only sell her photos but ensure her near 15,000 followers and endless posts would be wiped clean.
"I just refused to reply," Ms Thomas told news.com.au
"Half an hour after later they then sent another email saying, 'Don't you care about your account?'"
The influencer, who was using the social media platform to run her networking marketing business, still refused to communicate with the hackers, hoping it would get rid of them.
She had previously heard figures of about $400 had been handed over without hacked accounts being returned - and while she said it was a small amount, she still refused to engage with them.
Moments after the last email, she went to log back in and all her attempts were rejected.
She immediately contacted Instagram for help and then Facebook, who own the social media app, but only received a generated response.
She said her email address had been changed and via security steps she wasn't able to change it back.
Upon an automated request from Instagram, the 27-year-old had to take a picture of herself holding a piece of paper with both hands with her name on it and a code they emailed.
Despite gaining access hours later, everything on her account had been deleted.
"I ran my entire business through that page and I know that 15,000 followers is nothing and I am a small fish in the Instagram world, but now I don't know what is going to happen to my business and that is the scariest part," she said.
"It makes you realise how vulnerable social media is."
She the hackers' patience most likely wore thin due to her silence.
While it has been five days since she contacted Instagram, she still hasn't received a response on whether her account can be recovered.
"I haven't heard anything from them. Even after that I tried contacting them through request form and they just stopped replying to me."
"Luckily I went through my Facebook business pager after a friend, who had the same thing happen to her, said contact them through live chat - I got to speak to an actual human and they said they are still working on it."
SHE REVEALS HOW IT AFFECTED HER
Ms Thomas, who's Instagram following first started to grow after documenting her weight loss progression, has since created a new page @lifeofalexandgeorgie.
"Rebuilding my Instagram after being hacked," she wrote in the bio section.
In an Instagram story she expressed her disappointment with the social media platform, saying "look after your account because @Instagramdfintely doesn't care about you or your business."
Ms Thomas admitted that while a part of her still has some hope that her old account will come back, the other part of is a realist knows that probably isn't the case.
"In the last 5 days I went through some lows but also hit survival mode and went straight into planning what I am going to do now," she said in a post yesterday, alongside an image of her and her boyfriend.
"If this experience has taught me anything it's that when life throws you lemons, you use it as an opportunity.
"So here we are, The Life of Alex and Georgie. I have a few ideas up my sleeve but in all honesty, I am excited by this regardless what happens to my other page."
She went on to say that without her partner she wouldn't know "how I would have been in the last few days".
"He has held me together and been nothing but positive and I am so grateful for him. Also the support I have had from all of you has been incredible, you have given me the courage and belief to move forward.
"So watch us on this next chapter, a fresh start to 2019, new opportunities and a new way of doing things. Remember no matter what the situation is, there will always be a silver lining."
SHE'S NOT THE ONLY INFLUENCER TARGETED BY HACKERS
Late last year Meagan Baldini, a social media influencer with more than 42,000 followers, also fell victim to hackers.
Just like Ms Thomas, she too expressed her frustration with the social networking site over its lack of customer support.
"You literally feel helpless," Meagan Baldini told Global News in November. "There's nothing you can do."
Ms Baldini, known for her lip art, which has attracted some of the biggest cosmetics brands in the world, had reached out to Instagram for help to recover her account, but she too only received an automated response.
Hackers gained access to her Instagram account through her email and said the only way to keep her followers was to wire them money overseas. She refused and so they wiped her account clean.
"I was so devastated, because I lost the history of my art, which is a big thing for me," Baldini told the publication.
Eventually Baldini says she received an email from Instagram informing her the account she was trying to recover had been permanently deleted.
She decided to take matters into her own hands and reached out randomly to Instagram and Facebook employees via LinkedIn.
Ms Baldini said a week later a Facebook employee responded and restored her original account along with her now 43,100 followers.
BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY
According to a 2017 study by Influencer Marketing Hub, 420 new influencer-marketing agencies opened in 2017 alone, more than double the amount that opened in 2015.
The industry is currently estimated at about $2 billion, and could reach up to $10 billion by 2020.