Instagram Account hacked - what a shock
It is Wednesday evening, November 18, 2020. At 10.30 pm, I want to Instagram a bit. I open the app on my smartphone and get the notification "page does not exist". First, I don't think anything wrong. I register again, with the same result. I de-install the Instagram app and download it once more – nothing helps.
I begin to google. The first search result says that Instagram has technical issues from time to time and gets sorted out automatically after a while. However, nothing happens. I continue to google and find a whole bunch of search results for "Instagram account hacked". I am slowly getting a bad feeling. Finally, I check my inbox, where I see three emails from Facebook:
1) The username for your Instagram account was changed from khllifestyle at 13:23 (PDT) on Wednesday, November 18, 2020. Your new username is khllifesdfsdfylesdf. If you didn't change your username, you could secure your account here.
2) The phone number on your Instagram account was removed at 13:23 (PDT) on Wednesday, November 18, 2020.
If you didn't remove your phone number, you could secure your account here.
3) The email on your Instagram account was changed from email@example.com at 13:23 (PDT) on Wednesday, November 18, 2020. Your new email is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you didn't change your email address, you could secure your account here.
KHLLIFESTYLE NO LONGER EXISTS ON INSTAGRAM
It looks like my Instagram account "khllifestyle" no longer exists. Oh my gosh! I click on the links where I can supposedly save my account, but it is useless since all my data are gone. There is nothing I can do.
I discover another email in my inbox:
Good day! We apologize for the inconvenience. Good evening! Your account has been temporarily blocked! It's perfectly safe, and we haven't touched it. We are waiting for your reply in 2 hours!
If you do not respond, we will start to clear your account (delete photos) and sell your account!
We are waiting for your reply!
Oh no. I stay calm and send a reply. I get the answer that the sender is asking for 300 EUR to re-establish my Instagram account. I try the Facebook links again, but with no success. At least, I can enter a comment. Facebook sends me the following reply in English:
The account you're referring to has been removed. We're unable to restore accounts that have been permanently deleted. We're sorry for any inconvenience this causes.
The Instagram Team
I find similar statements of experts on the internet. However, I also discover the article of a German blogger who had likewise lost all data. That lady did not give up to ask Instagram to restore her account. After two months, she got her Instagram account back. Some light of hope!
In the meantime, I get another mail from Facebook, this time in German. They send me a code, asking me to write it on a sheet of paper and to take a photo with my face and both hands. I find this very bizarre but follow all the instructions and send the image off to Facebook.
THE HACKERS ARE GETTING BACK
Another mail from the hackers. They apologize for any inconvenience (hard to believe) and threaten to delete my Instagram account if I don't get back to them within an hour. They tell me that they are based in a country where no one will find them. I try it with a polite answer, asking them to keep my Instagram account, which is vital for my work. A bit naive for sure, but I think to give it a try. It is already late, so I decide to continue the next day. In the morning, I find this e-mail from Facebook:
Thanks for taking the time to contact us. Unfortunately, we cannot help you with this type of request on this channel. We cannot take any further measures. Visit the support site in order to find the best solution for that kind of problem. https://help.instagram.com/?ref=cr
NEW INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT
I am getting used to the thought that my Instagram account is gone for good. Over 16,000 followers and an engagement rate of 12 % (according to Socialblade) are probably lost. After giving it lots of thought, I decide to create a new Instagram account – khllifestyle_new. I post a few photos and inform my most loyal followers. That way, I collect over 120 followers in two days and get some "likes," but, of course, peanuts compared to my old Instagram account. I forecast when I will get again to 16,000 followers. Any chance to get there still in this life? On a positive note, I get many encouraging messages such as this one from the PR manager of a Greek luxury hotel:
You worked so much for this blog. But you are already famous, and your followers will follow you again because your content is terrific. Keep strong, and you will fix it also like it was before.
That's music to my ears! I reply to the Facebook mails and try to put some pressure on them. I mention that I am their client on both Facebook and Instagram and that my Insta account is necessary for me as a content creator. I don't get any immediate reply—no wonder with all those hacker cases. And my concern is that Facebook only helps the big guys such as Mercedes-Benz (over 6 million followers, a little bit more than me). Over 1 Billion people use Instagram in 2020; 500 Million use Insta stories daily (FutureBizz). Oh well.
Help from the Police
I get in touch with the police headquarters in Düsseldorf. Much to my surprise, I speak to the right (and very helpful) person after a few seconds. I make an online display against unknown. In the evening, I do something which I have never done before – I buy a little bottle of schnaps and empty it. That has a positive effect (but no worries, this will not become a habit).
The next day, I get a call from the chief inspector of the Düsseldorf police headquarters. I am not the first one to report such a case, of course. I am asked for some more information and to send the emails from the hackers as an enclosure. I should not just forward them since they need to see the headline. I do that right away. In the meantime, I continue to post photos on my new Instagram account and quickly get close to 100 likes for each image.
A blogger group on Facebook is pessimistic that I will get my old Instagram account back. I am now putting some little hope on the police. They cannot promise anything but do their best to find out the sender of those emails. I change all my passwords on my social media accounts, bank accounts, etc. I have to admit that I don't do that often enough. Lesson learned!
MIRACLES HAPPEN - MY INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT IS BACK!
In the evening, I recheck my inbox and cannot believe what I see – a message from Facebook:
Thanks for verifying your identity. Danke, The restoration of your account has almost been completed. You need to reset your password and will get access to your account again:
1. Sign off on all your Instagram accounts on all your devices.
2. When you are ultimately signed off, click on the following link: xxx
3. If you are asked to enter your user name, use khllifesdfsdfyledfgmai1
You can change your user name, your email address, and your phone number when you signed in. Here is how to update your data: https://help.instagram.com/xxx
More information and tips to guarantee the security of your account on the following link: https://help.instagram.com/369001149843369/?ref=cr
I can hardly believe this! I follow all the links and instructions, enter completely new data (apart from my Instagram nickname khllifestyle), and – success! I have my old Instagram account back, only with a few followers less. I immediately inform some friends who cannot believe this either.
Right away, I carry out the two-factor authentification for both Instagram accounts. That way, you can considerably increase the security, although it is never 100 % safe. My feeling is that I had lots of luck. The loss of my Instagram account would have been a little disaster. After all, I use Insta to get business partners. And I get many useful and pleasant contacts, apart from insulating invitations and job searches. Last but not least, Instagram is the most critical source for my blog after Google and Facebook.
TIPPS FOR THE RESTORATION OF YOUR HACKED INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT
Following is a summary of the most critical steps (from my perspective) when your Instagram account has been hacked:
1) If you still have access to your Instagram account, change your password immediately. The best is to change all your passwords.
2) If you no longer have access to your account, contact Instagram as soon as possible. And follow the instructions for hacked accounts. Important: be persistent; it may take some time to get answers.
3) By all means, use the two-factor authentification of Instagram (go to your account under settings – security – two-factor authorization). You need to download an app such as Authy.
4) If hackers get in touch with you, contact your local police. Don't make any payments.
Of course, I cannot guarantee that everything works well (and rather fast), like in my case. However, I would like to encourage everyone who has made / will have similar experiences.
Be careful and – happy Instagramming!