Fake emails lure actresses Aileen Tan and Chen Xiuhuan into Instagram hacker's trap

Jan Lee
The Straits Times
May 9, 2019

An e-mail purporting to be from Instagram was what did local actresses Chen Xiuhuan and Aileen Tan in.

Both received e-mails which asked them to verify their accounts or risk having them deleted along with photos and the followers they have amassed if they fail to comply.

But once they clicked on the link to verify their accounts, hackers took over their Instagram accounts.

Recalling the ordeal last month, Chen tells The Straits Times: "I couldn't gain access to my account but I could see my photos being deleted slowly. I couldn't do anything, it was scary. It felt like I was in a movie."

The 53-year-old made a police report but her account has yet to be retrieved and she has not created a new account.

Tan, 52, was more lucky. She got hacked last Thursday (May 2) but has since recovered control of her Instagram account after reporting to Facebook, which owns Instagram. No followers or photos were lost despite the hacking.

"I'm very thankful to the digital team that helped to return my account to me. Hopefully, my Instagram account will be more stable by this weekend and I can start posting again," says Tan.

Chen says she and Tan have been in contact over their common experiences.

"Aileen called me to tell me to cheer up. She knows how I'm feeling," says Chen.

According to news outlet Asiaone, celebrity hairstylist David Gan has similarly lost his Instagram account to hackers, who even sent him e-mails requesting an unspecified sum for his account to be returned. The 55-year-old has since lodged a police report.

Mediacorp told The Straits Times that other artists under its management have also been affected by similar online scams.

Local actress Bonnie Loo as well as actors Jeffrey Xu and Chen Hanwei have fallen victim to impersonators.

Loo, 24, discovered on Wednesday (May 8) that an impostor had duplicated all of her existing Instagram images onto a separate account. She has over 130,000 followers on the social media platform.

She has reported this incident as well as five other previous accounts to Facebook. All the fake accounts have been removed.

Actors Xu, 30, and Chen, 49, have also been contacted on Instagram by impersonators but Mediacorp said the stars "were IT-savvy enough to check back with (Mediacorp)".

No further correspondence or transaction took place with the impersonators.

Following the spate of hacking incidents, Mediacorp said: "The scourge of fake accounts is a phenomenon that requires constant vigilance and the inculcation of healthy online habits. We will be conducting refreshers for The Celebrity Agency (Mediacorp's artist management arm) artists and reinforce ways we can secure their social media accounts."

The Straits Times

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