Springbok No.8 Duane Vermeulen has revealed that he was the target of a blackmail plot, after criminals hacked into his email, PayPal and social media accounts this week.
After wreaking havoc with his online accounts, the hackers then decided to take it a step further and threaten him, demanding he pay a ransom of at least ZAR8000 or things “were going to get a lot worse”.
Vermeulen told Afrikaanse Sunday paper Rapport that the problem all started when he received an innocuous email that looked like it originated from Instagram.
In the email, the scammers suggested he change his status from that of a normal ‘user’ to one of a “creator”.
“I know how this sounds, but the email looked absolutely genuine,” said the big No.8.
“Every now and then we post pictures to Instagram for sponsors and according to the email this was in violation of Instagram’s rules, therefore I was requested to change my status. However, when I clicked on the link to do so it took me to a completely different site. I immediately tried to leave but by that time it was too late”
Before he knew it the hackers had already attempted to use his PayPal account to make a number of purchases, but fortuitously the big man’s wife had his login details and could get into the account and stop the thieves.
In the meantime, the hackers began to threaten Vermeulen with blackmail via WhatsApp. They had his ID number and login details for email, PayPal, Instagram and Twitter and told him they were going to take over his Whatsapp as well unless he coughed up US$500 (approx. ZAR8900)
One of the messages was that if he attempted to block them on WhatsApp things would only get worse for him. On top of this the hackers also got onto Vermeulens social media accounts and attempted to sell US$500 worth of Bitcoin to his over 100,000 followers.
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“You know that if you pay it’s not going to stop,” said Vermeulen “When I started to do some investigating I found that this had happened with a lot of people which is really bad as you tend to lose the commercial value of your followers.”
Vermeulen then brought in forensic experts for help.
“I closed my Twitter account and opened a new Instagram account but I’m still busy trying to get my old accounts back under control again.”
Conrad David director of the digital consultants “Hashtag South Africa” said this can happen to anyone. “Be really careful before clicking on links that you haven’t requested”
“Social media platforms will never ask for permission to make changes without your having already asked for them,” he said.
It’s also really important to check the email address where the email originates from. If it isn’t from the social media platform themselves then it’s likely to be false.
Perhaps if they find the hackers they can let Duane have the pleasure of a word or two with them personally, in a locked room?
This article first appeared in Rugby 365 and is published here with permission.
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