Explained: The Instagram ‘copyright infringement’ scam many have fallen prey to

Several celebrities, including Urmila Matondkar, Asha Bhosle and Amisha Patel, have fallen prey to the Instagram copyright infringement scam. How does it work? How can one protect themselves against it?

For the past few weeks, several people including celebrities have fallen prey to what is being termed as an ‘Instagram copyright infringement scam’. Fraudsters have been getting private details of users by posing as Instagram help centre executives. The latest to lose access to her account was actor Amisha Patel.

How does the Instagram copyright infringement scam work?

Several celebrities, including Urmila Matondkar, Asha Bhosle and Amisha Patel, have received a message on their Instagram accounts where the sender, usually a verified ID titled ‘Help Center’, claims he/she is associated with the ‘Instagram/Copyright infringement Center’.

The message reads, “Hello Instagram user, we have received many complaints about your account for a long time. We wanted to inform you about this. Before you delete your account, some of the posts you posted are against our community guidelines. If you think the copyright infringement statement is false, you must provide feedback. Otherwise, your account will be permanently deleted from the platform within 72 hours.” A “Copyright Appeal Form” is attached in the form of a link, which is actually a phishing link that asks users to fill in details like their Instagram password, date of birth, etc.

What is a phishing link?

A phishing link is created by fraudsters, who lead you to believe you are entering your personal details on a secure website — the Instagram help centre, in this case — but the details actually go directly to him/her.

Using these details, the fraudsters can log in from your account and change the password, thereby locking you out of your own account. They can then make changes to the username and use the verified account for duping others.

In the case of this fraud, the fraudsters even ensure the page has a ‘https’ in the address bar that is usually a sign that it is a secure site.

What do the fraudsters gain by getting access to these accounts ?

Fraudsters take advantage of social media accounts for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons, as seen in the past, is to sell personal details on the darknet — an unindexed version of the Internet that can only be accessed using the TOR software.

On the darknet, there are several sites selling bundles of personal debit card details and passwords, which are then purchased by other cyber fraudsters to withdraw money.

There are others who are interested in getting access to the social media accounts of celebrities, as it fetches a high price.

With access, some fraudsters also ask money for money from others on the friends list.

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What can be done to protect yourself from this Instagram scam? What if one has fallen victim to it?

The best way to avoid falling victim to this scam is to be aware about it. If you see any messages from Instagram asking you to click on links citing copyright infringement, delete the message and do not respond to it. You can also message the Instagram help centre in case of any doubts.

If you have already clicked on the link and lost access to your account, you can write to Instagram with proof of your account details and how you lost control. You can also inform the cyber police.

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