An altered image of some of the videos posted.

A California woman who thought she was helping an old friend pay for a kidney transplant has been caught up in an Instagram hacking scheme with a nightmarish twist —  criminals drained her bank account via Zelle and then forced her to make a hostage-style video endorsing a get-rich-quick scheme in an attempt to get some of it back.

I found her “hostage” video online, which was posted by an Instagram account containing hundreds of similar videos endorsing a scheme promising 1,000 percent% on investments; many seem to be coerced.

Makaylah Lervold wrote to me on Friday desperately seeking help getting a refund after her bank account was hacked and criminals sent themselves about $3,000 of her money. The hack followed a chain of events that began with an old friend reaching out over Instagram messages saying he’d finally found a kidney donor match after a four-year search.  Lervold had met the sick friend several years ago at work, but hadn’t stayed in touch, though she was aware that he was indeed seeking a transplant.  His search was public; I’ve been able to confirm it through local news coverage.  Lervold said she messaged with the writer, whom she now knows was an imposter, and agreed to take a phone call from a hospital representative who would provide instructions on how to contribute.

She sent $1,000 to the caller’s account via Zelle, thinking it was a donation. Instead, the money was sent to a…

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