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Instagram duped into thinking its boss had died when scammer posted fake obituary


Instagram was duped into thinking its boss had died when he had his account locked and memorialized after a scammer, who charges $60 for account-banning services, submitted a false obituary to the app’s support team.

Adam Mosseri had his account, which boasts 1 million followers, ‘memorialized’ when a scammer, who goes by @Syenrai, pretended that the 38-year-old was dead. 

Instagram’s memorialization feature allows users to report deceased account holders and in response, the app will block any activity on the account, including log-ins.

The user behind Syenrai, who remained anonymous, claimed responsibility for the September lock on Mosseri’s account.

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri (pictured) had his account locked and memorialized after a troll, who charges $60 for account-banning services, submitted a false obituary to the app’s support team claiming the executive died

Instagram's memorialization feature allows users to report deceased account holders and in response, the app will block any activity on the account, including log-ins

Instagram’s memorialization feature allows users to report deceased account holders and in response, the app will block any activity on the account, including log-ins

‘I find it ridiculous how Instagram lets such things even happen on their platform in the first place,’ they told Vice, noting just how simple it is to leverage Instagram’s mysterious features.

The user failed to disclose why they went through with the stunt but noted that they often get accounts banned or memorialized based on requests from paying customers.

Average bans go for about $60 and ‘for ordinary users who get memorialized,’ restoring their account may ‘take days or maybe weeks.’ However, because Mosseri heads the app, his account was only down for a couple of hours, according to Vice.

Syenrai disclosed that in order to get an account locked by reporting a false death, they’ll email the app about the user’s supposed passing.

Instagram will then request a death certificate, obituary or news article with the deceased user’s full name. In this case, Syenrai told Vice that they created a fake obituary online before screenshotting the page and replying to Instagram’s email.

But for less high-profile Instagrammers, the scammer said they’ll grab an online obituary of any recently deceased person as proof. About two days later, the app’s support team processes the request and locks the account.

‘As long as the obituary is recent (within same week) the target will be memorialized. It works 98 percent of the time,’ Syenrai said.

Oddly enough, the troll went on to condemn their own services, telling Vice: ‘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.’

An Instagram spokesperson told Vice that ‘Instagram has online forms to help people report suspicious activity or to let us know a friend or family member has passed away.’

‘Unfortunately, some people abuse these forms, so we hire investigators and cybersecurity specialists to detect scammers’ tactics so we can improve and make it increasingly difficult for them.’

A spokesperson claimed that Instagram's teams review all memorialization requests and cross-check images, names, dates of birth and a submitted obituary but scammers have evidently found cracks in the system (Mosseri speaking during the F8 Facebook Developers conference in April 2019)

A spokesperson claimed that Instagram’s teams review all memorialization requests and cross-check images, names, dates of birth and a submitted obituary but scammers have evidently found cracks in the system (Mosseri speaking during the F8 Facebook Developers conference in April 2019)

The spokesperson claimed that the photo-sharing app’s teams review all memorialization requests and cross-check images, names, dates of birth and a submitted obituary – but Syenrai has seemingly found cracks in the system.  

Syenrai added: ‘It’s very important to have your correct date of birth, and at least one picture of yourself archived, this helps prove you are the account owner in either instance of being memorized or being banned by someone.’

One user who offers ban-as-a-service and went by the pseudonym War told Vice back in August: ‘We have been professionally banning since 2020 and have top-tier experience. We may not have the cheapest prices, but trust me you are getting what you are paying for.’

It’s ‘pretty much a full-time job,’ they added, claiming to have made more than five figures in under a month from selling Instagram bans, speculating that people pay because they have a grudge against their ex.

‘Maybe ruining their business, maybe getting paid even more from a third party,’ War suggested. 

An advertisement posted to an underground forum called Users OG was selling bans for a dollar amount between $5.80 and $35, depending on the number of followers the account has. 

There were also scammers offering to restore accounts for users who claim they were unfairly removed from Instagram.

‘Basically it’s $3,500-4,000 to restore (and) $1500 refundable deposit to start,’ another unidentified service provider told Vice. 



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