SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Scammers are finding craftier ways to make money from unsuspecting business small business owners, as a Syracuse salon owner learned the hard way this month.

Kasey Castetter, hairstylist and owner of Evan Michael’s Salon on North Salina Street, began using Instagram to help her business recover from the pandemic shutdown. Her feed is full of pictures of hairstyles, before-and-after photos, and promotions.

“In an instant, it was gone,” Castetter remembers.

Messages that appeared to be from her real friend were actually a scammer. She doesn’t remember if she clicked a link or shared too much information, but the hacker was able to get into her account and lock her out.

Now, the hacker is posting and messaging from it.

The posts tout the financial benefits of a bitcoin investment, inviting people to ask for more information to join the success. Some of Kasey’s clients took the bait and lost hundreds of dollars.

She said, “What bothers me the most is they’re taking advantage of people that trusted me.”

Steve Stasiukonis, of the Secure Network in Downtown Syracuse, calls himself a professional hacker. He’s hired to test the digital vulnerabilities of companies and help businesses suffering from technical hacks.

He said, “Scoring $300 from a consumer is a huge win for some guy in a country you can’t pronounce.”

Looking at Kasey’s stolen account, he says photos of a lavish car and home being posted were taken from other places on the internet.

He suggests:

  • Not using the same or similar passwords for multiple accounts
  • Using an app designed to protect passwords, like E-Wallet
  • Not saving passwords in a spreadsheets or phone notes apps
  • Turning on two-factor authentication offered by platforms
  • Calling friends over the phone to confirm their messages, especially messages with links or asking for money

“Everything you touch digitally has a potential vulnerability associated with it,” warns Steve Stasiukonis. “Not just the technology, but what you do to interact with it. You make a mistake and interact with a threat actor. At that point, they know they have a live one, and they’re going to up their game. You have to be street smart on your phone, on your personal devices.”

Castetter says, “I feel violated. I feel dumb.”

The hackers are still posting from her account and messaging her contacts.

She and her clients have reported the posts to Instagram, which hasn’t intervened yet.

NewsChannel 9’s request for comment from Instagram hasn’t been answered.