Before you get heavily invested in my personal story of trauma, there are two things you need to know up front. Yes, I got my IG back and no, Instagram didn’t help me one bit. I’m sure if you’re reading this post, then you’re feeling how I was a few weeks ago; all you’re looking for is a solution to the issue and FAST. After reading over 50 articles of personal hacking stories, I decided I would spare you some time & give you the solution to retrieving your hacked account FIRST, then get into the nitty gritty of how I think I got hacked, what I’ve done since to help protect my account, and the rude awakening behind the lesson I’ve learned from this. You’ve been through enough, I totally feel you friend.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’VE BEEN HACKED
As I mentioned right away, Instagram Support didn’t give a sh*t about my hacked account. Basically, the system is run by what they call “sophisticated bots” that send you into a cycle of psycho. Although some people found success in retrieving his/her hacked accounts, based on my reading, I did not find such luck trying to get mine back. But nonetheless, I did try this method first before taking drastic measures.
**CHANGE ALL YOUR PASSWORDS FIRST BEFORE DOING ANYTHING**
If you’ve been hacked, then you got a notification via email that your IG handle/associated login email has been changed (by the hacker) – I’ll tell you right now that clicking the link that says “I didn’t do this” does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING; you’ll only be sent to an error page or redirected to the IG login dashboard on your computer. So make sure you change every single password you have to any account that has a similar password to the IG account that was hacked!
^For the record, I have since changed my associated IG email to a newly created one completely different than the one shown above.
PASSWORDS TO CHANGE ASAP
— Email, Website, Paypal, Bank Account —
Make sure each password is different than each other, create a note on your phone (with a discrete name – DON’T call it “Passwords..”) or a word doc on your computer to keep track of them all.
Immediately after I was hacked, I changed my email password because it was exactly the same as my IG account login. I also made sure to activate Two-Step Verification to my Gmail accounts so I could further protect them from suspicious login attempts. About 2 minutes after changing my passwords, I got an email alert from Gmail that notified me that someone tried to login to my account from an unfamiliar device. So at least I beat that asshole to the punch & probably spared myself with more detrimental consequences.
NEXT: SUBMIT A REPORT FORM TO IG SUPPORT
Chances are the hacker changed your associated email and password, so you can’t send yourself a link to change the password via email at this point. So here’s what you do: on the app login page of IG account that was hacked, click “Forgot Password” and then click “Need More Help” on the following page that pops up (underneath “Send Login Link” button.) You will then be redirected to this form (below) which you can submit to IG Support’s bots indicating your account has been hacked.
THEN: SUBMIT PROOF OF IDENTITY
You will receive an automatic email from IG Support asking you to prove your identity by sending a selfie of yourself with a handwritten note with a numeric code they ask you to include on the first line, along with your first and last name on the second line, and your hacked IG handle on the third line. Once you send this in, all you can do is wait.
If you’re lucky, then you’ll receive a link that will (apparently) help you get your account back. But if you’re like me, you’ll end up sending your identity TWICE and get THREE retrieval links that DON’T WORK…
*SIDE NOTE: IG SUPPORT BOTS CAN F*CK YOU OVER*
I mentioned how IG Support Bots send you into a cycle of chaos, here’s how: I sent the report form and patiently waited for the automatic email response the first time submitting – I never got the email…
I then decided to resubmit the form OVER and OVER again until I got an email; yes, it was tedious AF to do but after about 8 submissions I FINALLY got two email responses, back to back. The first one included the steps to take to submit proof of identity; the second one told me my IG account has been permanently deleted and they can no longer help me – LOL TALK ABOUT MISLEADING!
For the record, my IG account wasn’t deleted & I’m glad I didn’t take that message seriously. So if you’re faced with that unfortunate response from IG Support, just be sure to resubmit another form. But in all honesty, if it didn’t work for you the first time – it won’t work at all.
So what should you do next..?
REACH OUT TO SOMEONE WHO WORKS AT FACEBOOK OR INSTAGRAM TO HELP YOU
The good news is that almost everyone as a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree connection to someone who works at either FB or IG. Their employees have the power to get hacking situations into the proper hands of REAL people who can help. Also, any internal report they send gets PRIORITY. So in my case, I was able to get my account back within 6 hours after giving my connection the details of my situation.
If you don’t know someone personally at FB/IG…
PUBLISH MULTIPLE “SOS MESSAGES” ON ALL OTHER PLATFORMS, ESPECIALLY LINKEDIN
What ultimately got me connected to a live human at FB was when someone in my Connections on LinkedIn forwarded my message to a friend of a friend who worked at FB Corporate. If I didn’t publish my cry for help (3x a day for 2 days FYI), then there’s a chance my message wouldn’t have been seen by this person, and subsequently passed along in the right direction to someone who could help. If I didn’t post more than one plead for help, I wouldn’t have gotten my account back at all. This method of desperate repetition SAVED my account and consequently my career… I’m also forever indebted to the efforts of those I’m connected to on LinkedIn who forwarded/re-shared my message(s).
IF ALL ELSE FAILS, CONTACT JUAN
Out of the 50 articles I’ve read (this one in particular), I saw several bloggers who got hacked mention this guy named Juan who miraculously helped them get their accounts back. I was skeptical but also desperate, so I did in fact contact him before finding my IG/FB connection. Although I didn’t end up needing his help, I can assure you he’s legit and verified to assist you. I reached out to him via DM (on my personal IG account lol) and he responded almost immediately with his WhatsApp # to further discuss the issue. Because he’s been in recent demand for hacking help, he charges $ for assistance but is very negotiable with what you can pay now/later.
*His IG account is temporarily (purposefully) disabled, but you can reach out to him on his website here.
HOW I [THINK] I GOT HACKED
I’m almost certain there are two reasons for why my IG got hacked:
1. I accidentally clicked on an phishing link that was embedded in the text of an email.
Hackers are very clever, so much so that they can get you as easily as 1, 2, click when presenting you with something that would normally grab your attention (i.e. a brand collaboration pitch.) I’m normally VERY aware of sketchy emails and immediately delete them the minute I see it’s opening line reads, “Hello @tobebright.”
But in this circumstance, the language in this email was relatively normal. I should also mention I was on the ferry during the time I checked this particular email, which means my attention wasn’t entirely on reading it thoroughly ~ aka I clicked on the embedded link in the text that said “See our Instagram..” I was redirected to an Instagram brand page, BUT it was a different brand the PR rep in the email claimed to be from…RED FLAG.
FYI: It’s ILLEGAL to embed harmful links within the copy of an email. I’ve since submitted the suspect email to authorities.
BEWARE OF SUSPICIOUS EMAILS & THE LINKS THEY INCLUDE
If the language is misspelled or sounds off, IGNORE & DELETE!
If there’s a link embedded in the text OR if the direct link is visible but includes random symbols/numbers in the URL address (i.e. instagram.com/tobebright/1=434ds20), DON’T CLICK!
It’s better & safer to search for the brand yourself in a separate search tab (website / IG) than to click any of the links that draw suspicion.
2. I didn’t have Two-Factor Authentication enabled on my IG Account.
Looking back, this was so dumb of me not to have..what the hell was I thinking!? Although it doesn’t protect you from hackers 100%, it would’ve probably made it less easy for them to do if it was enabled. What this essentially does is send you a text verification code each time your IG account is attempted to be logged into. This ensures that it’s in fact YOU logging in, and not a suspicious person from a different device you didn’t authorize. I also enabled IG’s 2nd suggested authentication option (Google Authenticator) as a backup, because I’m not taking any chances these days. It was free to download and very easy to set up.
How to enable Two-Factor Authentication on Instagram
Settings > Security > Two-Factor Authentication
So now I’ll open up the discussion of how this situation, although terrible and traumatic, was a real eye opener & somewhat of a blessing in disguise.
At the end of the day, you never know who’s connected to who & you’d be surprised how many people are willing to help out when they see you’re in need of digital help – probably because it’s something a lot of us can mutually understand and feel for, knowing how awful it would be in the position of a victim to Hackers without needing to be hacked in order to understand its terror. In this circumstance, it’s a weird moment of gratitude: you’re grateful to know people have your back & want to help, but at the same time dealing with a devilishly rude awakening when you realize how much you relied on your social media & how awful the feeling is when you no longer have it. And in some instances, you recognize how much you relied on it FOR YOUR JOB. At the time, I was guilty of this 100% & knew I needed to change my strategy if I intended to keep my career going, with or without Instagram…
I’m sure you’re wondering how the hell I could say this was a blessing of any sort, but it truly was in respect to how I intend to run my business going forward. It was very foolish of me to 1) not expect this kind of thing to happen, until it did.. and 2) not to have any sort of security set up to prevent it from such. There’s no doubt in my mind this was meant to happen to me, as some sort of rude awakening to the potential damage that could happen if I don’t properly manage my business’s security. This also shed some light on the harsh reality that I heavily rely on Instagram as my #1 source of income – again, a very foolish thing to do.
The reality is that Instagram can disappear tomorrow, and everything along with it. We don’t own our Instagram accounts, so we have very limited control in the event they disappear for good. That’s why it’s SO IMPORTANT to focus on other platforms equally when growing & monetizing a business (i.e. Pinterest, email list, an actual website etc.) Should one platform fall out of favor, the others can maintain your business credibility.
Needless to say, I learned a very valuable lesson in prioritizing my business’s security & strengthening all its branches of growth simultaneously. I pray that this situation never happens to you but if it does, I hope this post will 1) help you get it back, and 2) inform you on how to better protect your business in the future.