Celebrity hairstylist David Gan has lost his Instagram account due to hackers seeking “compensation” in return for access to his page.
In addition to his case, two other actresses, Chen Xiuhuan (also known as Sherry Tan) and Aileen Tan, have also reported their Instagram accounts being hacked recently.
All three public figures have been regular users of Instagram over the years and amassed over 40,000 followers each before the hacking incident. It is not known if all three incidents are connected or done by the same person.
According to David, who spoke with AsiaOne over the phone, he was first contacted through email on May 2 with a request for payment in exchange for the return of his account.
From May 2 to May 4, he received four additional emails requesting payment with the tone of each subsequent email growing in frustration.
AsiaOne understands that the amount requested was never specified.
David’s Instagram had over 44,700 followers before the incident occurred. He has confirmed that a police report has been lodged.
Here are the messages he received in full:
May 2, 2019
After reviewing your Instagram’s account activity during the past year we have noticed that it has strictly broken some of our main terms. Due to that, we were responsible to remove your Instagram account. If you want us to reactivate the account again, you must pay compensation to us. Are you interested?
Please note that unless the compensation is payed (sic), every account with your name and pictures will be automatically removed from our Instagram community app.
May 2, 2019
As reported in our previous email, many users of Instagram have reported you as a spam account. That’s why we needed to take your account down. If you Pay Compensation to us, you will get one more chance with your Instagram account. Do you want or no (sic)?
May 3, 2019
This message is here just to inform you that the compensation must be payed (sic) within 24 hours or else we won’t be able to recover your account.
May 4, 2019
Do you want to pay and have your Instagram account or no (sic)?!
Aileen Tan locked out of Instagram
According to a Shin Min Daily report, Mediacorp actress Aileen Tan first encountered problems logging into her Yahoo email account last Friday (May 3) and was locked out during the verification process.
Despite recovering access to her email the next day, she is still unable to log into her linked Instagram account (@aileentan80) and has yet to regain control of it.
A longtime user of Instagram, Aileen had over 2,000 posts and a 44,500-strong following before she lost access to the account.
Many of her posts contained pictures with friends, family, as well as motivational quotes that the actress would share with her followers.
Worried that her followers would be deceived by an impersonator, she is reportedly considering making a police report.
Chen Xiuhuan’s Instagram handle suddenly changed
In a separate article by Lianhe Zaobao, fellow actress Chen Xiuhuan’s Instagram page was also reportedly hacked on April 25.
The day before the incident occurred, Xiuhuan noticed suspicious activity on the page as her account name was suddenly changed.
After she was notified by friends and family, she tried changing her password to no avail and proceeded to “watch her photos getting deleted one by one,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
Prior to losing her account, she had about 42,500 followers and had been uploading posts regularly for about two years.
The actress told AsiaOne that she is still trying to recover her account back from Instagram and has since lodged a police report.
How to protect accounts from hackers
Last October, Singapore influencer Clarie Teo also made headlines when her Instagram account @xclarieacaciateo was hacked and held hostage for US$300.
In an interview with The New Paper, cyber security expert Ali Fazeli said social media influencers are easy targets because they put a lot of personal information online.
“If you post everything about your life online, how difficult can it be to get hold of personal particulars?”
He added that not giving in to the hackers was a right choice.
“To protect accounts from hackers, users should come up with complex passwords and refrain from accessing personal e-mails on public networks on shared computers, such as in airports.”
A version of this article first appeared in Asiaone.