Hey, guys! It’s been FOREVER!! I’m sorry I haven’t been around for weeks. My Instagram account for the blog was hacked a few weeks ago, and I lost it for 2 weeks, then was on vacation for a week when I got it back. I didn’t want to write too many blog posts without it because it is my main method of promoting these posts, so that you all see them!
How I Found Out I Got Hacked:
So, a few weeks ago, I woke up on a Saturday morning and as I recall, I tried to sign into my IG account. However, I was just getting an error message. I knew right away that this was a bad sign. I immediately checked my email, and saw that I had a message with the subject title “INSTAGRAM HACKED”. I opened it up and it said “Your Instagram has been hacked. Respond within 3 hours or we will delete the account.” My heart sunk, but I knew that IG had ways of recovering it, so I looked for an email from them. Everytime your account is signed into on a different device, they send an email saying so with a link to recover the account. So, I found that email (it went into my “Social” folder in gmail, so be aware of that if you can’t find it in your regular inbox) and I clicked on the link to try to recover the account. BUT, the sneaky hacker had changed ALL of my account info – the password, the email address, the phone number, and the username! So, Instagram did not recognize any of the information I was entering to send the recovery information to me. I tried so many different ways to contact them but kept getting road blocks. We emailed them from a different account and told them about the issue, but they replied with all automated responses, saying “Your account has been permanently deleted, there is nothing we can do. Sorry for the inconvenience.” SERIOUSLY!?!
What Happened With The Hacker:
The hacker had been emailing me the whole time, asking for $285 in return for restored control over my account. He kept saying that he had no interest in my account and only wanted the money. He promised to return the account to me after he received the money. He gave me an hour to get it together or threatened to delete the entire thing. Since Instagram was of no help at this time, and we didn’t know what else to do, we figured it was worth a shot to get the account back. All of my time, energy, and money invested into that account, as well as the income that it provides me were worth more than $285, so, we gave in, and agreed to pay him. We did ask for proof that the account had not been deleted first. He had to unblock the account temporarily and screenshot it in real time so that we knew it was still active, even though we couldn’t find it when we searched for it. But, my friends could still see our messages and it would from time to time show up when they searched for it. He did provide the screenshot. He was in Moscow, so it was their time, but the time matched when we calculated it. So, we proceeded with the payment process.
He asked to be paid in Bitcoin, which was a huge hassle. I had to upload my driver’s license, call my bank, take a photo of me holding my credit card and send it in to the website before the payment would be approved. It was a very violating feeling to have to go through this all to get something back that never belonged to this evil person in the first place! I was beyond upset. But, the payment went through, and we emailed him the confirmation. We waited for hours to hear back from him, as he said it would be only ten minutes until he would email us instructions to get back into the account. I sent multiple emails begging him to please send it to me, telling him how this was my livelihood and that I had invested so much into it, hoping that he would have a little piece of goodness in his heart to send it back. But, he did not. I even had my Russian friend email him in Russian begging to give it back. We never heard from him again.
How I Got Hacked:
While I was telling all of my fellow blogger friends what happened, someone mentioned a phishing scam that was going around. A phishing scam is when a hacker sends you a fake email, pretending to be someone else. In this case, they pretended to be a brand wanting to collaborate with me. I was so upset because I KNEW about these scams and I wasn’t thinking at all, and just went along with it. They made me believe that they were “Bohemian Mama” and provided a link to look at their Instagram account. I clicked on the link and was taken to a page that looked EXACTLY like the Instagram login page – but it wasn’t. So, I signed in on the page, thinking nothing of it, and that’s how they stole my login information. I was then taken to the cutest Instagram page for this account, so I didn’t think anything of it. I starred the email to come back to later so I could respond. Then, overnight while I was sleeping, the hacker hacked my account and changed all of the information. After a certain period of time, Instagram lets it go I believe, and you can no longer retrieve your account through the link that they email you when someone else signs into your account. So, this hacker knows what they were doing to do this while a blogger in the U.S. is sleeping. UGH. So, moral here is – NEVER sign into Instagram or any other account for that matter from a link that was emailed to you. Always go into your own account and physically type in the company’s name. I got a second email similar to this asking me to sign into Facebook for another collaboration with Shark, the vacuum company. I responded to the email asking for another way to access this collaboration, and they never responded, so I think that was another phishing scam. They are everywhere right now and I keep hearing so many stories from other bloggers, so stay alert (unlike me, haha) and be on the lookout!
How I Recovered My Account:
The entire time we were going through this, we were communicating with our friends who work at the FBI in Cyber Security and our friend who works in a tech company. They both said that Instagram must have a large server and that the account could not be permanently deleted just like that. So, we knew we had a chance to get it back if we could just get the info into the right hands. We weren’t getting anywhere with our emails to Instagram, so we sought help from people who work inside.
Our first attempt at having someone who worked at Facebook (Facebook owns Instagram, so it’s all in the family) file a report for us was not successful. We waited for a week and heard nothing. So, my husband made a Facebook post, telling the story, and asking any of our friends that might have a contact at Facebook or Instagram to please message us and share that person’s information. Sure enough, our friends came to the rescue! It was so amazing to see how much people really want to help others! We had lots of people message us with friends who worked at the company. So, we got in touch eventually with one of these mutual friends and they filed a report for us. Within hours, we had an email from Instagram with the information needed to get back into the account! It had been two weeks at this point, and I was in shock! I couldn’t believe that we got it back!
How To Prevent Hackings:
DEFINITELY go and put 2-Factor Authentication on your Instagram account. When you put this on your account, Instagram will send a text message with a code to get into the account. This way, if someone tries to sign into your account from an unrecognized device, they won’t know what the code is (unless for some terrible reason they also have stolen your phone! AHHH! Nightmares tonight!). You can also download an authentication app that will give you a code if you don’t want to receive the text messages.
Things To Keep In Mind If You Get Hacked:
I am so incredibly thankful for the people who helped us. I can’t give out their information, but I can tell you, that if this happens to you, make a post on all of your social media channels and ask for help. Your friends will be happy to help put you in touch with someone and it’s the best and safest way to get your account back. You can also go on LinkedIn and search for people who work at Facebook or Instagram. I’ve heard that people have gotten it back this way as well.
There are also apparently “anti-hackers” out there who can help you. You do have to pay them typically. I tried this for a few hours, but I got too nervous giving out my passwords and sensitive information right after I’d been hacked, and we changed our approach back to finding someone within the company to help. But, I have heard from other bloggers that these anti-hackers have helped them. If you choose to go this route, just be very careful that your email account that you give them access to does not have information that could be used to hurt you, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other private information. I would wipe the account clean before giving out that info. And, do your research and get plenty of first hand accounts from others who have used this same anti-hacker, before you go about hiring one.
All in all, I am so grateful to have the account back and for my friends who helped me! It was pretty devastating to have all of my work stolen like that. I would have had to start from scratch and the thought of that just left me so overwhelmed and exhausted, haha. It really takes so much effort to build an Instagram account. If you’re a blogger or business owner, you know this! With Instagram being so over-saturated and the algorithm always changing, it is very tough to grow the account. At times I feel completely drained over it. But, at the end of the day, what’s most important is that you are YOU and you still possess all of the creativity and skills that you did before you got hacked. You have everything it takes to rebuild. You just have to find the willingness and energy to do so. I applaud anyone who has had to rebuild this way. My husband likened it to having your storefront burn down and your insurance doesn’t cover it. Pretty much sums it up!
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions, need support, or help! I would be happy to give you everything that I can to get you through this difficult situation! Just remember, it is not permanently deleted right away, so it is possible to recover it! You just have to keep being persistent and NEVER GIVE UP! I think that is my life’s motto, honestly 😀