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New Instagram scam targets top real estate agents

A real estate media coach has warned agents about an online scam targeting the industry aimed at stealing top agents’ Instagram profiles to push a Bitcoin fraud.

According to The Media Coach, Imogen Callister, more than 60 agents, including many of the country’s top performers have fallen victim to the scam that locks them out of their accounts and uses their large followings to promote Bitcoin money-making schemes.

Mrs Callister said the scam starts when an agent is contacted by a follower, who is often a friend or colleague, asking for help as they’ve been locked out of their account and they need three people to help verify their information.

The agent is then sent a link to forward to the friend, which is actually the link to their own account’s password reset.

“If you’re busy and on the run, you most likely don’t look at the link,” Mrs Callister said.

“You just copy the link and send it on.

“When that happens, the hacker gains access to your account and removes your mobile number and they can then change your email address and your handle, which gives them access to your profile.

“You’re now kicked out of your Instagram account because your password has been changed.”

Mrs Callister said once the hackers gained access to the agent’s accounts, they’re able to promote different Bitcoin scams and use the agent’s status to suck people in.

“Unsuspecting agents are the key to this scam because they look like great candidates to be Bitcoin traders,” she said.

“Real estate agents typically have nice cars, nice suits and shots of their family.

“Now that these people have access to quite a few profiles, including a number of elite performers across the Eastern Suburbs (of Sydney), the scam will be able to continue.

“They’ll then send out the identical message to each of the followers asking their contacts for help.”

The Media Coach Imogen Callister has urged agents to look out for the scam.

According to Mrs Callister, the scam has picked up speed, with just three of the 60 agents that had contacted her able to recover access to their accounts.

Mrs Callister said there were a number of measures agents could take to help secure their accounts and prevent these types of scams taking place.

“Please do not reply to these people, do not ever send on any links and set up two-factor verification today,” she said.

“Because you can spend 10 years building an online brand with a large following and it can be taken away in one fell swoop.”

There are also other security options agents should consider such as facial recognition, regularly changing their passwords and using digital tools such as LastPass to help store passwords securely, Mrs Callister said.

She also suggested making complex passwords that are unique to every website you access on a regular basis.

“Unfortunately, the scam is going to get worse before it gets better because there is no way of shutting it down,” she said.

Mrs Callister said if agents had been impacted, they should continue to try to contact Facebook, despite the company not having a department that dealt with identity theft.

“If you ever get emails from Facebook that you didn’t initiate, they are from scammers trying to access your account,” she said.

“If people ask for help and ask them to send you a link never do it because you can guarantee it’s a scam.”

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a freelance journalist specialising in finance and real estate.