Miss England contest alerts police after cybercriminals hack beauty queens’ accounts

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·4 min read
Miss Newcastle, Alisha Cowie is crowned Miss England 2018 at Kelham Hall & Country Park, Newark, Nottinghamshire.
Miss Newcastle, Alisha Cowie is crowned Miss England 2018 at Kelham Hall & Country Park, Newark, Nottinghamshire. (File photo, PA)

Miss England beauty queen contestants have been targeted by cybercriminals, prompting the pageant organisers to call in the police.

The competition’s Instagram account was hacked last week by Turkish scammers, who demanded cash to hand back control.

The Miss England account, which has over 23,000 followers, is still in the hands of online crooks nine days on from the cyber attack.

Meanwhile, beauty queens are now facing attacks from the same fraudsters, who are attempting to hijack their Instagram profiles as well.

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The sophisticated scam has sparked fears that the contestants, who rely on social media for exposure, could be duped by the hackers.

Current Miss England and NHS doctor Bhasha Mukherjee, 24, is among those targeted by the online crooks as well as serving Miss London Jessica Kang.

Organiser Angie Beasley said she was also hacked during a late-night scroll through social media after she received what appeared to be a legitimate message from Instagram at around 10.30 pm on Tuesday.

It asked her to confirm her identity or risk the account being shut down due to violating Instagram policies.

After clicking a confirmation code sent to her mobile, the conmen managed to gain access to the pageants account.

The hackers then directly messaged her on WhatsApp less than 24 hours, saying: "If you want to save your account we can make a deal with you."

Beasley said she contacted Action Fraud UK, a reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, which has referred the matter to Leicestershire Police.

She said: "I felt like such a fool, it just all happened so quick - I could kick myself. As soon as I gave them the code the screenshot of my Instagram account came up with a picture of someone waving at me.

"The next thing I knew I couldn't get into the account as they had taken it over but it didn't dawn on me till about 10 minutes later on what had happened.

"Since then they have changed the account to five different names and it is now also a private account.”

Beasley said the hackers are now contacting people who also follow the account including other beauty pageant contestants, trying to trick them into the same hoax.

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She said: "The day after at around 1 pm I had phone calls and messages from an Iran number saying I would have to do a deal to get my account back. They want money.

"I was told by a few influencers that it has happened to them and it can take weeks to get it back if you're lucky.

"I'm just in shock about how easy it is to get hold of somebody's account and get the contact details and also get access to all the followers.

"The fact Miss England is a competition for young girls and these hackers can contact our girls it's worrying.

Beasley also said she was “shocked” by the lack of assistance from Instagram.

She said: "We have had no help from them whatsoever. I have reported it and sent emails but had no response from them.

"I have now contacted Action Fraud and they put it through to Leicestershire Police and they have assigned me an officer to deal with it.

"But he has told me that he doesn't think they will be able to do much especially if it's hackers from abroad, so he's doubtful if they will be able to do anything to help.

"It's a great shame we have had the account for around seven years and to just lose it in a flash is very concerning."

Current Miss London Jessica Kang, 26 of South Ealing, West London, was also targeted by the scammers on Sunday.

Jessica, who is due to take part in the finals of Miss England after dropping four dress sizes, uses her Instagram page as a platform to help others trying to lose weight.

She said: "I received a message but Miss England had already let me know the Instagram issue so I knew it was the hackers.

"Otherwise I think it would have been really easy to fall for. It was pretty convincing. The current Miss England Bhasha Mukherjee told me they were targeting the Miss England contestants linked to the account.

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"I started getting paranoid so I went and changed my password four times and also my Facebook password as they're connected.

"I was worried as I don't want anything to happen to my Instagram account as it's my professional account."

A Leicestershire Police spokesperson said: "We have received a report from Action Fraud on Friday 29 January regarding an allegation that a social media account had been hacked.

"Officers are continuing to make enquiries into this report."

The Miss England contest is currently using @missenglandnews1 on Instagram as they await a response from the social media platform.

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