Long story short, on Friday morning I lost my Instagram account to a hacker. 5 years of work, content creation, promotion, and networking was gone in a flash. And my 39,000 followers and memories went with it.
In this post, I’m going to tell you the full story of what happened. And steps you need to take to ensure this doesn’t happen to you. I am also going to share what I went through and am going through emotionally and mentally. And I really hope this post will help people who are both dealing with this situation and help people take steps to prevent it from happening.
If you see my old account which is @cuddle.fairy pop-up in your Insta travels, please let me know asap as I need to report it and try to reclaim it.
My new account is @CuddleFairy (the difference is the . between cuddle and fairy in the old account and no dot in the new). I’d really love any follows and shares of my new account. I am grateful to each and every one of you who are helping me rebuild and support me in this.
Realizing I was Hacked
Friday started out like a regular day – on Insta stories, as always. I put up my morning posts and then carried on with my day. I remember sitting at my desk answering emails.
Around 11:00 I clicked the Instagram icon on my phone, to have a nose around, and it showed the login screen. When I typed my details it told me it was the wrong details, and then it told me that username didn’t exist.
My heart sunk. Panic mode. Pure and utter panic set in. My stomach flipped, WHAT IS HAPPENING?? Surely Instagram wouldn’t delete me? I tried the laptop, I tried everything and it quickly became evident that my account had been hacked.
About 10 minutes later, I received an email FROM THE HACKER!!! Yes seriously, the hacker emailed me telling me he had my account and I had to reply in 2hrs or it would be deleted….
I felt like I was in some weird cyber kidnapping version of Taken. Seriously – is this seriously happening? So I scrambled to try and reclaim my account. I went to the Instagram help pages and did what it said. Some of the options they say to hit weren’t showing up, these buttons I was meant to click dont’ exist! Come on!!
I find an email for Instagram…quickly, email them…then I immediately get an auto-response saying this email isn’t active, check our help page. Doh! Quickly call them….same response. Doh! No humans to be connected with in Instagram – it’s self service and that is that.
So I reply to Hacker….saying, I’d like my account back, is that possible?
To which s/he replies…..yes for $300. Or they will delete it and sell it!!
Figuring out How I got Hacked
At this point, I was in total panic. Stomach was in bits. I was angry, afraid, totally panicked. Should I just pay? No, you can’t pay a blackmailer, he could just ask for more. He’s obviously not a trustworthy person. I simply can’t go down that road.
So I decided to throw everything at this situation, to try to get my account back. I tweet, I post to Facebook. I start messaging everyone I know. A friend tells me about a form you can fill to report a hacking which I filled in. I got an auto-response from Insta to check out their help page…
Another friend told me about the new Instagram anti-hacker measures which is meant to email me a code to reclaim my account. Makes sense – I am the original email holder, and that same email has been on the account since it was opened over 4 years ago. Surely by entering my email and getting a code, Instagram will let me back in – I was delighted, goodbye Mr Hacker!
Well, that’s what it says on the tin. But Hacker is too clever indeed, he did such a job on my account, changing the user name twice, email twice and then deleting the whole account, that Instagram sent me this email instead of a code to get my account back…
I have had such an education in the last 24hours it is unreal. I have learned all of the mistakes I have made and also how non-existent Instagram and Facebook customer service truly is.
Through this process of learning, I realize that earlier that morning I was sent an email to collaborate on an Instagram post. I opened the company’s Instagram link which was an Instagram link. And it said login which I did. Foolishly. But I didn’t take any notice, I thought I wasn’t logged in on the laptop. And that’s how they got my login – from that simple login.
And I didn’t have two-factor authentication turned on. That feature texts you with a new login so you have to approve each new login. That cuts out any chance of being hacked. I didn’t have it on because a friend of mine got locked out of his account due to 2 factor…but you stand a much better chance of account recovery from being locked out than a hacker taking hold. So turn on your two factor, it’s under settings!
Steps to Take to Secure Your Instagram
At this stage, I feel like a total idiot here. I mean, I have really and truly messed up. And I just had no idea what I was doing. It’s crazy I didn’t have measures set up to secure my account and ridiculous I wasn’t aware of this kind of scam.
If I can save one person from having their account hacked by knowing this info I will be very happy indeed. So here we go…
- Set up two-factor login – THIS IS CRITICAL….if it’s not on, stop reading and go set it up. Then come back and read more 🙂 Please note this applies to both Instagram and Facebook – make sure it’s set up for both. And if you are on Twitter, turn it on there too.
- Use a unique and wild password – go for non-words mixed with caps, symbols and go crazy.
- Change your password often & don’t use it on other accounts.
- Backup your Instagram account under settings. I have to do this on my new account. I honestly am not sure how but I know it is under settings and then you can have it go up to Google or iCloud from there.
- DO NOT OPEN EMAIL LINKS – this is all links. I don’t know how you are meant to exist on email these days. But this is a fact of life now. Even Instagram links aren’t safe. Don’t login to any either…. So don’t open any links, even if it looks like a real Instagram link.
Reality Sinks In
I am a fighter and I wouldn’t be satisfied unless I did everything that I could do to save my account. So that’s what I did. Literally everything. And with the help of the blogger and social media community, I was given so many contacts, words of wisdom and support.
What I learned is that in this situation, the only thing that can save my account is a human on the Instagram team. The hacker did so many twists and turns then deleted the account. So it now can’t be resurrected by any auto Insta techniques.
I had support from people who have had their own Instagram lockouts, hacks, and threats. And I realized these facts:
- I can’t pay the hacker
- There is a good chance my account is gone for good
- If somehow I get my account back, it could be 12 months down the road and I can’t wait that long.
- Now is the time to start fresh while I have so much support over the hack. And try to build from there.
The mix of emotions are unreal at this stage. I felt a loss of something I hold so dear – my photos, story highlights, my connections made there over 5 years, my following who I treasure so much. I felt anger towards the hacker. And outrage that this is my reality – that there is NO come back for people like me. Instagram simply does not care.
You are on your own
Instagram apologized for the inconvenience – I think not or they would have customer service. At the very least, have it for those with business pages like mine with their credit card linked to it. I understand not having support as it’s a free app but once a company allows you to link your card or bank account, it should have an obligation for customer support. But that is not the case, you are left out on your own with no help besides the auto features which in my case could not save my account.
Think about Instagram for a minute – it is a shell, a platform and without creators, influencers, celebs adding content to the platform, it is nothing. Without people interacting, liking, comment, Instagram is nothing.
Instagram makes billions per year off of us people who use it. And they afford no protection against crimes committed against us.
I was hacked, then blackmailed to pay money to get my page back. The hacker continues to email me since and that must be considered harassment. Surely this should be seen to quickly, no?
What about the police you might ask? Sounds like a matter for them? I rang the police surely and was told they could take a report. And send it to their cyber crimes division and it will be put at the bottom fo the pile because there was no money lost.
What about the loss of potential earnings? Loss of my photos, five years of work? What about the blackmail, the harassment?
Note if you do get hacked on Insta or Facebook, cancel your card asap. I heard a story about a hacker who used the account to promote his goods and boosted 1k onto the owner’s card! I’ve also heard terrible stories of people sending hundreds of fake followers to accounts then threatening to do more if they don’t pay.
These are real crimes!!! How can Instagram run a platform that allows crime to run rampant with no support whatsoever???
I realized that social media is all an illusion. It’s not tangible in any way. And we do not own our pages. No matter how much money you invest in your Instagram, it is not yours. And it can be taken away in the blink of an eye.
I am very grateful that this situation doesn’t involve anything in the real world like a person or real-life property. That realization has never been so big. And it’s something I think all social media users need to keep in mind and keep in perspective.
I also felt like such an idiot for not having things set up properly to prevent this / make it less of a loss. I had a lot of learning in a few hours. A lot of learning.
I hated how I felt once all of this sunk in – really and truly sunk in. I needed to sit down and center myself. So I headed up to my bedroom to sit down. I lit a candle, meditated, connected, asked for help from my angels and pulled an angel card. I got the New Beginnings card. What better message than that?
I accept what has happened to me and my focus now is to first, let people know about it to help prevent this and to spread awareness. Second to build a fresh start for me, a new beginning. Filled with followers who have rallied around me, people who have supported and shouted for me. What an amazing blessing to see how many people have come forward to help me.
That night I was drained – emotionally and mentally. I couldn’t think about what to do next or how to cope moving beyond that Friday. That night I kept dreaming of Instagram login pages and was wide awake at 6am with my mind turning.
I spent the next day focusing my mind on daily life. We went to town, I went to my son’s soccer match. If my mind was let off, it was back to fear and the unnerving feeling of what is happening. And the hacker emailing me again the next day didn’t help.
I am focusing on gratitude, on knowing all things happen for a reason and making the best of my fresh start. I’m also focusing on the present moment which stops my mind wandering.
In the space of 48 hours I know I have personally stopped at least 20 hacks. People are sending me suspicious emails they received and suspicious login attempts. Hundreds of users have turned on two-factor login after watching my story who didn’t have it on before. So in this way, I have won, not the hacker. By spreading awareness we stand together to educate and support each other as that’s our only defense.
Thank you very much for reading this. I tell the full story over on my Instagram story highlight, hacked,íf you’d like to hear more. That story began about 5 hours after the hack occurred.
I’d love for you to join me on my new Instagram page. I share positivity, quotes, the beautiful West of Ireland, family travel and much more. Come join our adventure.