CHICAGO - Hackers turned a Chicago man's life upside down when they took over his identity online.
"I signed on and within seconds they had everything, all my information, my phone number, my email," said Jordan Heidenwith.
It began with a message on Instagram. Heidenwith says it appeared to be from the social media company, alerting him to a copyright violation on his Instagram page. He logged in to his account using a link in the email.
"It was literally five seconds later that it happened like that," Heidenwith said.
His profile disappeared. Then, the hackers started reaching out to some of his 170,000 followers asking for nude photos. Heidenwith assumes they were going to use those photos as blackmail to get cash. The hackers then tried to sell Heidenwith's account back to him for $300 dollars in Bitcoin. He didn't pay.
"It took so little to kind of get rid of eight years of my life and of my work and my career," said Heidenwith, who used Instagram as a marketing tool to connect with clients.
The Chicago division of the Federal Trade Commission says cybercrimes that begin on social media have increased threefold since the pandemic began.
"They are really good," said Todd Kossow, the FTC's Midwest Region Director.
He says the hackers have learned how to mimic the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and popular social media sites.
Kossow says in the first six months of 2020, scams originating on social media cost Americans $117 million.
Kossow recommends never paying the hackers.
"One reason we recommend not paying is because it doesn't mean you're going to get your account back," said Kossow. He also insists on logging into your accounts from the official home page, instead of following a link in a message. He says never open attachments in emails you're not expecting.
And, always report cybercrime to the FBI, social media company and the FTC.