Pagham business owner speaks out after being targeted by hackers

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A businesswoman has issued a stark warning to fellow entrepreneurs after hackers held her social media ransom.

Lucy Toone, from Pagham, set up her business TOMM Jewellery in August 2019 and has so far amassed more than 10,000 followers on Instagram.

The picture-sharing social media giant accounts for 80 per cent of the company's business so when hackers blocked off the account and held it for ransom there was real concern.

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Now the 21-year-old is speaking out so other business owners do not go through the same ordeal.

Business owner Lucy TooneBusiness owner Lucy Toone
Business owner Lucy Toone

On February 4, Lucy received a message appearing to be from Instagram's support team. After being warned about a copyright infringement on the page, Lucy followed a link before being locked out of her account entirely.

The hackers then contacted her personal page and demanded £5,000.

"It was awful," she said,"I knew that wasn't an option. Small businesses don't just have that money at the ready."

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Fearing further demands if she complied, Lucy refused to cave to the ransom and instead sought the help of Instagram itself.

"There was no email or other contact for Instagram. I had a Facebook account that hadn't been hacked."

Lucy said she spoke to about 15 different Facebook representatives and even tracked down the head of Instagram on LinkedIn but to no avail.

"The first guy said there is 'nothing we can do' and that there was no way of them helping me. I have grown up with social media and I was surprised.

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"You feel hopeless and completely out of control. I have spent two years building that account."

Lucy decided to post a video to her personal account calling on Instagram to acknowledge her. The video was viewed nearly 30,000 times and her page was flooded with messages of support and fellow business owners who had also been targeted by hackers.

She added: "I feel it is my responsibility to talk about it so that other people are aware."I think for me it was not just important to get my own account back but to stress the importance of not having your total business rely on one platform.

"It was a huge chunk of a small business. I was fearful I would lose the office and not be able to pay the bills.

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"My inbox is always open for support to those who have also had this sadly happen to them. I’d really like to help as much as possible."

You can contact Lucy on her email [email protected]

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