A Winnipeg business owner is reminding others to be careful online after her social media accounts were hacked over the weekend.
Amie Hart runs two businesses; Set The Bar, a business that provides snack bars to events such as weddings, and a wedding planning business that she recently started. Both of her companies use Instagram heavily.
On Saturday, both of her accounts were accessed by a hacker, and she was locked out.
“I lost years worth of work and content and followers, it was devastating,” Hart said.
Hart said she received a text message from someone claiming to be from Instagram, saying there was a copyright infringement posted on one of her accounts.
“They told me they would text me an appeal form that I could appeal this accusation and I could get my accounts back,” she said. “In the meantime, I went to my accounts, and they were both locked. So, I had stated to this person that my accounts were locked, and he said, ‘Well, that shouldn’t have happened. I can gain you access back to your accounts.’”
Hart said the purported Instagram employee asked for security codes sent from the site, claiming he would enter them to restore access.
“Meanwhile, he wasn’t helping me; He was hacking into my accounts and taking over,” she said.
Hart said she went back and forth with the hacker, and asked if she was being scammed, which he confirmed, asking her for $100 and Apple gift cards.
When she heard that, her heart sank, she said.
“I have eight years of work poured into that account,” Hart said. “All of my posts, all of my reels, all of my followers, everything was lost. And not only that, but this person has used my identity to reach out to all of my followers to try to scam them, as well and try to take money from them.”
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, told CTV News Winnipeg that they are in the process of restoring Hart’s access back to her account.
As of Tuesday evening, Hart said she has regained control of her accounts.
Hart says she wants others, especially business owners, to be aware so they don’t fall victim to the same thing.
“If you’re following a small business account and you get a message that’s out of the norm for that business, that’s not their regular content, or about investing or Bitcoin or things, it just looks suspicious. But chances are that the account has been hacked. And the best thing that you can do to protect yourself and to help this business is to report and block the account.”
In an email to CTV News, Winnipeg police spokesperson Ally Siatecki said if you receive an unsolicited email or message claiming to be from a well-known company, you need to be cautious.
Siatecki said don’t click on any links or download any attachments, verify the sender’s email address, check for spelling and grammar errors, not provide personal information and report the message.
-With files from CTV’s Jon Hendricks