Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok have removed hundreds of accounts belonging to users who steal and resell short-name profiles.
Simple usernames like @killer, @stonks, @miracle, @sick are highly valued among social media users, as they indicate that their owner was one of the first to sign up on the platform.
These accounts often become targets of scammers and hackers who, in various ways - from extortion and harassment to blackmail and to hack - try to get them to resell. The price can reach thousands of dollars. In general, the market for the resale of "rare" account names is estimated at tens of millions of dollars.
"Their main objective is to grow their pages, and selling these O.G. user names is a game for a lot of them. They sent me pictures of my house on Google Maps. They told me they wanted to rape and kill my parents. They said that I'll regret doing this. They sent me my address a lot and created an account 'exposing' me on Instagram, where they'd just post and make up lies about me," 22-year-old Jackson Weimer, administrator of a meme account called @hugeplateofketchup8, told the NY Times.
Accounts began to be cleaned on February 4, when Instagram finished checking the site ogusers.com, where profiles are resold. The platform tried to return the accounts to the original owners. Still, it is rather challenging to identify the real creators because hackers can convincingly impersonate their accounts.
Nine people are behind the seizures, and intermediaries who helped them organize the accounts' resale were also blocked. These were mainly students who were trying to make money during the pandemic. Instagram is also working with local law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice.
TikTok and Twitter confirmed that, with the support of Instagram, they removed accounts from their platforms that registered usernames for their further resale or unfair use.