Our Instagram account was hacked and held for ransom. What? RANSOM?! This is what we learned and how we dealt with it:
I never in a million years thought that I’d fall for a scam email. I’m a natural skeptic, and being in this business certainly hasn’t changed that. On Monday we received an email offer to collaborate. Still, being the skeptic that I am and given that the language looked slightly off- I investigated the account offering to collaborate without clicking any links. It all looked legitimate- and the account they advertised was, in fact, a real boutique that works with bloggers. I responded. Fell for it all. I didn’t notice that the link misspelled the account. By mid-morning on Monday, we had no access to our account. It looked as if it had never existed.
Then the emails came— there were people demanding actual money for our account. What?! I had heard of this happening to governments and large companies! I did not know that bloggers like us were at risk of having their accounts held for RANSOM! It’s a very violating feeling, extremely creepy, and highly stressful. These hackers are relentless and spend a lot of time sending threats via harassing emails.
Through our personal Instagram accounts and our business page on Facebook, people began reaching out and offering advice and help. I had NO IDEA how frequently this happened, but it was reassuring to know that most of the people who have dealt with this did eventually retrieve their accounts. Never underestimate the power of building a girl tribe! The fellow bloggers that we engage with and cheer on daily ended up being crucial to the account recovery process.
PREVENTION IS THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE
Turn on two-factor authorization anywhere you can. Prevention is the first line of defense and a mistake we had made. Yes, it can be a hassle, but it’s nothing compared to the hassle of getting your account back and dealing with the onslaught of harassing emails from foreign hackers. You can use a phone number for 2F, but you can also use an app like DUO which is even more secure.
Your password should be extremely difficult to guess. Avoid using common words and meaningful numbers like birthdays and ages. Change your password often. You should not use the same password across various accounts.
Finally, avoid signing into your account through third parties. For many bloggers, it’s not an option to avoid this 100%, especially if you take advantage of different blogging tools. It’s harder to tell what is a legitimate Instagram sign-in page when you are signing in through a mobile or in-app browser as opposed to, say, the Instagram app. If you’re invited to collaborate and it feels off, search for the account, validate that it’s legitimate, and don’t be afraid to DM the legitimate account to confirm that the collaboration email originated from the account.
DESPITE BEST EFFORTS, HERES WHAT TO DO IF YOUR INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT WAS HACKED
Do not pay your hackers. We originally read that we should try to keep a dialogue going so that the hackers don’t delete or add content from your account. They are going to minimize any activity that requires your account details to be accessible by you. We don’t recommend chatting up your hackers, it will simply add more stress to your situation. Don’t even talk to them if they offer you a discount on the initial ransom. Yes, that happened. TBH, it felt a little rude. How could someone upend three lives for days for the small chance of getting just $185?
Here are some first steps you can try if your Instagram account was hacked:
- Instagram will send an email that asks you to confirm the new email address. That email will be sent to two addresses- yours, and the new email that the hackers set up for your account. The key is to beat them to accepting those changes by clicking “Revert this Change” immediately.
- Since it’s unlikely that you will get so lucky, and given that hackers are smart and have the advantage of knowing this email will come, your next option is to file a complaint with Instagram. You can do this easily from your iPhone by following the prompts. If you have an Android the process seems more complicated, so it might be worth borrowing an iPhone from a friend.
Fill out the form with as much information as you can provide without being confusing. You’ll find that you might have to do this several times. You should eventually hear from Instagram- hopefully. Keep in mind, this isn’t the time to take a wait and see approach. Instagram will probably send you an automated response that says your account does not exist. Keep trying! Don’t worry about being a pest.
What do I do if my Instagram account was hacked but Instagram doesn’t appear to be helping?
Many people told us to contact Instagram, as if it is that easy!! These are, of course, people who don’t rely on Instagram for income. You cannot just call Instagram for help. When you reach out, you will receive one million automated response, and it might feel like you are going in circles, but getting nowhere. Odds are, if you want a quick resolution, you will have to resort to these next steps.
- Many bloggers have used Instagram Fixers who have helped them successfully locate and reinstate their accounts. This usually comes at a price, but the price is significantly less than having to rebuild years of hard work. We spoke with a guy that came recommended that many accounts had used- his name is Juan. In the end, we didn’t need his service but if you ask around he is the go-to guy! It sounds sketchy but we promise he’s legit and has saved some really major accounts! If you find yourself in this situation with no other options, contact him! We have his information and will be happy to share it.
- This is what we did. We reached out to friends, social networks, big Facebook groups and asked for contacts at Facebook. We found two people to contact doing this. A friend gave us the name of one of her friends who works at Facebook, and a fellow Pittsburgh blogger hooked us up with an employee within Facebook who had helped her friend, and this person filed an internal request. I believe this puts your account in front of a real person. Your goal is to get your account in front of a real person.
Do not lose hope if your Instagram account was hacked!
Even though I have two super optimistic besties and friends who were sure we’d be okay once we got help, it was hard to push out those “What if” thoughts. The idea of trying to rebuild two years of content was terrifying. Moreover, it feels like a violation.
The worst, most soul-crushing part was this – after two years of hard work, we’ve finally reached a point as bloggers where big things are starting to happen. We were looking forward to a sizable collaboration with a national brand (stay tuned!), plus a fun girl’s weekend away where we were to be promoting some local businesses and hotels. There’s no denying that Instagram is our biggest asset, so the thought of having to let these brands know that we wouldn’t be able to fulfill our end of the agreement was very upsetting. Just as we were discussing a game plan to inform businesses about our situation, we received the email from Instagram that allowed us to recover our account.
Our hacking story ends with the best possible outcome- we got our account back and realized that we had a lot of people rooting for our success. If you wake up to find that your Instagram account was hacked, we hope you’ll find your way to this guide so that you can at least find solace in knowing that this has happened more than you’d think and you CAN get through it with your account intact. Reach out via DM, we’re happy to answer any questions!