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‘Hackers hijacked my TikTok account – now they are holding it to ransom’ | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker | #hacking | #aihp

She was then taken to a clone of TikTok’s login page, which was convincing enough for her to enter her username and password as normal.

Little did she know she had just given a scammer everything they needed to steal her account.

“Unfortunately I fell for it and literally five minutes later the hacker had changed the phone number and password associated with the account,” she said, adding that it “was so believable”.

Then came a WhatsApp message from the scammer that said “do you want your account back?” before they named a $500 (£390) price tag.

“When it initially happened I was in shock for a while,” she said, adding that she refused to give the scammer any money.

Ms Hoskinson trusted TikTok would resolve the issue and promptly reported it. But she was saddled with a string of automated replies failed to solve the problem.

“I just want to chat to someone and explain the situation and find a way to get the account back. I’m absolutely furious.”

‘Hacking extortion’

Younger people are being increasingly targeted by scammers at greater rates than their older counterparts.

Data from Action Fraud, the UK’s financial crime reporting centre, showed that there were 8,997 cases of scam texts from victims aged 20-29 in the past three years.

This compares with 7,346 for those in their 30s, and 6,387 for those in their 40s.

Action Fraud said it also received 3,482 reports of so-called hacking extortion, the term given to the type of fraud Ms Hoskinson has experienced, in the past 13 months.

It said the numbers did not represent a significant increase, however the category has been the third most common in that period, suggesting criminals are increasingly targeting social media influencers.

Phishing, where scammers use fake texts, emails and phone calls to trick victims into handing over information, has conventionally targeted bank accounts and other financial services.

But the tactic has spread to social media sites such as TikTok and Instagram in recent years, where scammers have used phishing to steal accounts, before asking for large amounts of money to return them.

James Bore, a cybersecurity expert, said: “Small businesses running on Instagram and TikTok have been dealing with this kind of scam for a while.

“The problem is that social media companies are very slow to react and if your business or livelihood relies on that account then three or four weeks of not having it can be critical.”

He advised social media users to have a dedicated email address that is separate from their personal email if they are running a business or earning money through a site, as well as setting up security protections.

“You absolutely must have two factor authentication turned on. It’s not something you can avoid having anymore.”

He said that it can be hard to spot a clone of a website. “The only thing you can really do is look at the URL and be sure it’s right but it can be very hard to tell,” adding that users should always be careful of clicking links sent to them via email.

Despite repeated requests for her account to be given back to her, she says TikTok have so far not provided Ms Hoskinson with access to her account again.

A spokesman for TikTok said: “We are committed to protecting the safety of our community and integrity of the platform and are looking into this case.”

Under the new Online Fraud Charter, signed last month by 13 social media giants including TikTok, firms must take action against fraudulent content “straight away” as well as meet other commitments to keep users informed about scams.

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