A teenager has been sentenced to two years imprisonment for hacking into multiple Snapchat accounts and posing as the female victims in a bid to make money.
Jasin Bushi, 18 (09.08.03), of Aldenham Street, Camden, was sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court on Monday, 25 July. On 25 May he pleaded guilty to unauthorised access to a computer to facilitate the commission of an offence, fraud by false representation, possession of articles used in fraud and three counts of blackmail.
He pleaded not guilty to three counts of disclosing private sexual photographs or films, with intent to cause distress, these charges were left to lie on file.
The court heard that between December 2020 and February 2021, Bushi hacked into seven women’s Snapchat accounts. He then changed the victim’s login credentials preventing them from regaining access.
Whilst in control of the Snapchat accounts, Bushi posed as the person and messaged their friends. The messages started off asking the victim’s friends to borrow some money to help pay their rent, usually £200 or £300, stating they will be kicked out if they are unable to pay.
Realising something was amiss, some of the victim’s friends challenged the legitimacy of the messages. Bushi was not fazed and promptly admitted to not being the victim, but stated if money is not sent to the requested PayPal account he will send nude pictures of the victim to all their contacts.
Intimate pictures or videos of the victims found in the private area of their Snapchat accounts were posted on a number of occasions. These posts were seen by the victim’s friends, family and colleagues. Bushi denied being the person who posted them which was accepted by the Judge.
The police were first contacted in May 2021 and detectives from the Met’s Cyber Crime Unit promptly launched an investigation. Detectives established fake PayPal accounts were being set-up with fictional personal details and email addresses that used the victim’s name as part of the guise.
Detectives were able to link the fake accounts to Bushi due to him being linked to two mobile numbers used.
Officers carried out a search warrant at Bushi’s home address on 3 August 2021. On one of the mobile phones they seized, officers found some of the victims’ compromised personal banking details, compromised email addresses and passwords and a note that read ‘Hey, I’m struggling with rent. I’m literally £300 short and I’m probably going to get kicked out if I can’t pay. I’ll pay back Monday.”
Seven identified victims, aged between 17 and 35, and from across the UK, agreed to provide a statement to the police. However there were many more victims who were unwilling to support a police investigation.
One victim, whose friends, family and colleagues saw the posts, said she has suffered a variety of negative psychological experiences since the hacking. She added she has felt humiliation and shame when she has had to face family, has withdrawn socially at work and thinks her staff have lost respect for her.
She said: “Snapchat was a social media platform where I had years of stored treasured memories of photos and videos of my child, and I now feel nauseated using the app.
“I had a friend who, thinking she was helping me, lost a significant amount of money due to this incident and I feel indebted to her. I was fortunate enough to not be physically injured by this incident, but the long lasting psychological effects impact me every day, and I feel that this is likely to be the case for a long time in the future.”
Another victim found out about private intimate images of her being posted in Snapchat while she was at work after her colleagues informed her. She said: “I felt embarrassed, I left the office straight away in tears and had a few days off work because I felt I couldn’t face the people who have seen those private images. The feeling still haunts me now of when I first saw those photos on my public story, I would never wish that feeling upon anyone.”
Bushi attended two voluntary police interviews where he answered no comment to all questions put to him. He was charged on 21 February 2022.
Detective Constable Ed Sehmer, the investigating officer from the Met’s Cyber Crime Unit, said: “Bushi completely violated the victims’ privacy all in an attempt to make a quick bit of cash. When his deception did not work, he resorted to blackmail. He is extremely cruel, callous and it was absolutely devastating for the victims who had their intimate images publicly posted.
“I’d like to thank the victims for courageously helping us with our investigation and I hope Bushi’s conviction offers them a small measure of comfort.
“This crime type often goes underreported as victims can often feel shame or embarrassment. There is nothing to feel ashamed about. I urge anyone to come forward and report to the police if this has happened to you. We will fully support you and treat you with sensitivity and dignity.”
The Met’s Central Specialist Crime the Cyber Crime Unit holds specialist capabilities that investigate cyber dependent crime and activity on the dark web. They also provide mitigation advice, deliver specialist cyber-protect training, run exercises to reduce vulnerability and strengthen resilience for the public, businesses and organisations across London.
The Cyber Crime Unit’s Protect team provide support and materials to individuals and businesses who have fallen victim to cyber crime. More than 80% of the referrals into the Protect team relate to social media account compromises.
DC Sehmer added: “To help prevent social media account compromises I recommend everyone uses two factor authentication and does not reuse passwords for various social media accounts. Good password hygiene involves changing passwords regularly, making them long, alphanumeric and containing upper and lower case letters with special characters.”
If your email or social media account has been hacked, it’s important to act fast. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) explain how to recover a hacked account here: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/recovering-a-hacked-account.
For wider advice on how to stay safe online visit www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/fa/fraud/online-fraud/cyber-crime-fraud.