The head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, was temporarily locked out of his own account after a scammer managed to convince the company he had died.
The scammer managed to pull off their scheme with the help of Instagram’s memorialisation feature, which allows users to report to the company that an account holder has passed away to prevent anyone else from logging in to the account and making changes.
The scammer who claimed responsibility for the incident, identified through their handle, Syenrai, sent emails to Instagram to trigger the memorialisation after having created a fake obituary online, allowing them to adhere to Instagram’s requests of a death certificate, an obituary or news article that includes the full name of the deceased person.
Instagram quickly resolved the issue after the scam took place in September, though Syenrai told VICE others don’t get their accounts back so quickly.
Speaking about their successful plot to the publication, they commented:
I find it ridiculous how Instagram lets such things even happen on their platform in the first place.
The entire banning community needs to be discovered and reported to Instagram so they can put an end to this—it’s basically the dark side of Instagram.
Syenrai has carried out the same scam on other, less high-profile accounts after receiving requests from paying customers. They have successfully done so simply using a recent obituary of any deceased person online, after which they submit a memorialise request for the victim’s account.
The request takes ‘1-2 days for support to process’, but ‘as long as the obituary is recent (within same week) the target will be memorialised,’, they said, adding: ‘It works 98% of the time.’
An Instagram spokesperson has said Instagram has ‘online forms to help people report suspicious activity or to let us know a friend or family member has passed away’, and acknowledged that ‘unfortunately, some people abuse these forms.’
They explained the company hires ‘investigators and cybersecurity specialists to detect scammers’ tactics so we can improve and make it increasingly difficult for them’, as well as saying the teams that review memorialisation requests aim to ensure the request is legitimate by matching the image, name, and date of birth in a submitted obituary with the respective account.
If someone believes their account has been memorialised incorrectly, users will be offered a form when they open the app which reads: ‘We’ll only be able to grant you access to this account if we’re able to verify that you’re the account owner.’
Syenrai said some accounts can take ‘days or maybe weeks to come back’, but noted that having your correct date of birth and at least one archived picture of yourself helps prove you are the account owner.
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