A small business owner has lost more than $20,000 after his social media accounts was hijacked by cyber criminals who are refusing to give it back unless he ‘pays up’.
The scammers hacked into Oscar Vallejo’s accounts after posing as a trusted friend and sending the Sydneysider a link requesting help with logging into Facebook Messenger.
Pretending to be his friend, the fraudster asked for help resetting his own password – giving an innocent-looking link – which Mr Vallejo clicked on.
That single click handed the scammers key details which allowed them to hijack the social media account Mr Vallejo uses to market his pet-food e-commerce store.
Oscar Vallejo (pictured) was tricked into giving cyber criminals the email and password to his small business social media accounts when hackers posed as a ‘trusted’ friend
In 2019, the 51-year-old started Doglato, a company which makes healthy dog ice-cream and gelato.
‘One of my close friends messaged me asking for help to log into his messenger account, I did not hesitate to help him and pressed the link,’ Mr Vallejo told Daily Mail Australia.
‘By the time I realised it might not be him it was too late.’
The hackers promptly changed his email, password and mobile phone used on Dogelto’s Facebook Messenger, account preventing Mr Vallejo from using two-step recovery.
Since January, the cyber criminals have extorted his suppliers and followers, costing him his reputation, customer rapport, and more than $20,000 in lost business.
‘They started messaging every single customer “can you please help me?” and looked to see who I had the most engagement with,’ Mr Vallejo said.
The hackers also targeted Mr Vallejo’s friends, asking for digital currency under the guise of investing it for them.
Since January, the cyber criminals have extorted his suppliers and followers, costing him his reputation, customer rapport, and more than $20,000 in lost business so far and have held his account ransom ever since (pictured, a dog enjoying a Doglato frozen treat)
Mr Vallejo messaged the hackers asking if he could have his account back. They responded aggressively with a $500 ransom to be paid through an untraceable iTunes card.
The Doglato founder refused to pay the ransom, saying ‘how do I trust a thief?’
The company, which wholesales domestically and internationally, started selling to some of the biggest pet food companies in the country – Petstock, PetO and IGA.
Mr Vallejo said the cyber attack has not stopped his business but it has put the company on a long road to recovery having to rebuild its followers, brand, and reputation.
‘One of the most embarrassing moments is your dealing with big companies like Petstock. It’s hard because they are messaging me to deal with it and messaging my clients and it’s just not a good position to be in,’ Mr Vallejo said.
‘We’ve had to rebuild our entire reputation that we’ve spent two years and tens of thousands of dollars growing.’
Doglato’s Instagram account (pictured) is still live and under the hackers’ control
Mr Vallejo lodged countless complaints with Facebook and Instagram’s technology company Meta but has gone unanswered.
After messaging Meta numerous times Mr Vallejo was told to not submit any more applications because he ‘will delay the process’.
Meta has never replied to his pleas for help and he has not heard from them since.
He has since regained control of the businesses Facebook account but the Doglato’s Instagram account is live and still controlled by the hackers.
This comes as soaring numbers of small businesses across the country are falling victim to cyber crimes.
Business Australia which provides advice to more than 70,000 small businesses has seen a surge of owners wanting to invest in cyber security.
In the last six weeks it has seen an influx of 20,000 small businesses needing help.
In last week’s budget, the Morrison government announced significant savings for businesses that invest in digital technology, cyber security and staff training.
Business Australia General Manager Products Phil Parisis said more than 40,000 struggling small businesses already reached out on how to protect themselves so far this year.
‘Small businesses are easy targets for cyber criminals,’ Mr Parisis said.
‘Cyber criminals are savvy, they know SMEs have less resources, time and budget to protect themselves, unlike bigger companies with sophisticated security systems.’
Business Australia General Manager Products Phil Parisis (pictured) said more than 40,000 struggling small businesses have already reached out on how to protect themselves against cyber attacks
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk