I received this great, depressing, funny, scary story from a great gal Emily one of our blog / influencer members (sign up here!) and was hooked!
A lot of people rely heavily on their socials for both family and friends contact and work but often forget that they are completely at the mercy of mega-companies that have little financial motivation to employ either people or a satisfactory automated system to rescue our little accounts once they have been hacked or wrongfully deleted…and yes this can happen on your favourite blogging platform as well! The moral of the story is as I have always said work your own property on your own land and use the ‘rented’ property to assist this, not the other way around.
Got your tea and biscuits ready?….
It was a normal Saturday evening, my bestie had come over to help me change up my hair colour (that’s a whole other story…) and I checked my phone, there were 4 emails from Instagram, the dreaded 4 emails you never want to receive…
My Password, Email and phone number had been changed/removed and a new device was used to log into my account. I immediately opened up my app but was kicked out straight away and couldn’t get back in.
I went into panic mode, this is every bloggers worst nightmare!
The emails had ‘revert this change’ links, so I clicked them in hopes I could get the account back. Alas, the links were broken! Nice one Instagram…
After a mini breakdown, which seemed to thoroughly entertain my bestie, I found a form to report that my account had been hacked.
But this is where the real issues with Instagram began…
I found out that it is near impossible to speak to anyone, emails and reports just get ignored. I spent literally a week going in circles, being ignored and getting no where.
I rely massively on my Instagram for traffic to my blog, the very real possibility of not being able to get my account back literally made me go a little crazy!
After the first report (there were many!) I received an email from Facebook, who own Instagram. The email asked me for the following:
1. A brief description of the issue you’re experiencing
2. The email address or mobile phone number you used to sign up for your account.
3. Any previous usernames you’ve had.
I replied to the email with the information but heard nothing.
Days went by and the account began posting and changing my name and profile pic etc. So I panicked… again!
After trawling through the help pages again, I decided to see if my facebook might still be connected. It was a long shot but worth a try. I tried to log in using my facebook account, but it ended up just setting up a new account instead. It had used the email and phone number associated with my original account, so to avoid confusion I deleted it.
Apparently despite me providing Instagram with the username and new email address that the hackers changed it to, a few days later I got an email saying “The account you’re referring to has been removed. We’re unable to restore accounts that have been permanently deleted.” at this point I’m pretty much tearing my own hair out!
I turned to google again but everything I read said you have to wait for Instagram to send you an email asking for some kind of code.
It happened! I got the almighty email asking for a photo of me holding a piece of paper including the following:
1. Includes the above code, handwritten on a clean sheet of paper, followed by your full name and username
2. Includes both the hand that is holding the sheet of paper and your entire face
3. Is well-lit and is not too small, dark or blurry
When I received this email I was at the office working my day job. I jumped out of my seat and handed my phone to my friend who took a fairly awkward photo of me with the information.
I sent the photo off and waited anxiously for a reply.
The next email I got was from a guy called Jeremy. I thought Jeremy was going to be the one to give me my life back, but I was so wrong. Im not even sure Jeremy was a real person.
Jeremy’s email asked for the same information which had already been provided.
I was confused as to why he was asking me for this information again, but I responded none the less. Then it went silent, I had no responses for days on end. I emailed again a few times with the information, I included the photo again in case it didn’t go through before, but this didn’t make any difference.
My options were limited. I found an email for data requests, which to be fair wasn’t what my query was, but I figured if it went through to a human they might be able to help right?
I got an email asking for information about my request, I sent it and got a reply. Progress right?
They replied with an auto response directing me to their online help page, or should we call it the unhelpful page? It just takes you round in circles.
I was about ready to give up at this point, I had tried everything! I had DM’d facebook, Instagram, emailed help addresses, submitted countless reports and sent awkward photos. My AMAZING friend Nadiene (@justnadiene) even got her little army of gorgeousness to report my account to get Instagrams attention.
I guess the reports worked to get Instagrams attention, as they contacted me on a second account I had and let me know they had REMOVED my original account.
I was devastated!
On all of the help pages, and even on one of the emails they sent me, Instagram states that once an account is removed, its gone and they cant get it back.
Giving up meant having to start over. Meaning my blogging career would be set back years if I was able to recover it at all. I should add that the account mysteriously returned and was then later removed again…
I wasn’t ready to accept defeat, so I thought id have another google and see if I can find anything else. I stumbled across a blog post where they explained they were having the same issues as me, but they had the brilliant idea of going detective!
The blog spoke about searching for facebook employees on facebook and messaging them directly. Although extreme, this was my last shot! Of course I continued to send reports to Instagram about the hack, but as I wasn’t getting any responses. I started searching facebook for anyone who worked there. I filtered the search by employer and made sure to only search for people who lived in San Fransisco, as that’s where their offices are based.
I must have messaged about 50 people!
Now it was time to sit and wait… (and submit some more reports)
Later the same day I had three responses, one from a really nice girl who unfortunately wasn’t able to help, another from another nice girl who didn’t speak english (we had to communicate via google translate) and finally, the one id been waiting for! Someone who could help me.
For the purposes of not getting them into trouble and not wanting to have other people in my position bombarding them with messages, I’m going to call him Frank.
Frank took some details from me and put in an internal request to have the account looked at and took an alternative email for me to be contacted on. I cannot explain how grateful I am, that this amazing human being went out of their way to help a perfect stranger.
It was quite late at this point, so I went to bed and woke up to an email the next morning. It was asking for a photo of me again with a code, this is now the 3rd time I had gone through this process but I sent another awkward photo and then shortly after got another email asking for more information, the same set of questions I had already answered time and time again.
I got a response from a human being!
They asked me to send the reply from the email account from which my account was originally set up with, so I forwarded all of the messages along with the answers to their questions.
Finally, I received the email id been waiting for! An email with a link to reset the password and regain access to my account!
At this point I am shaking with excitement. I follow the link, reset the password only to find out, they had sent me a link to reset and reactivate the account that had been set up when trying to log in with facebook!
Not only did this feel like I was back to square one, but it became so apparent that their help pages and earlier email saying accounts cannot be retrieved once removed was utter lies!
I persisted! I emailed back to let them know this was the wrong account and explain that this one was set up after my account was hacked, but all I got were auto replies directing me the unhelpful pages. I later got another email with the same link. I was literally losing my mind!
And then suddenly, a person emails me! An actual person, with another link…
The RIGHT link!
Im 99% sure this was the result of Franks internal escalation, as this person didn’t require any awkward photos, or ask for more details, they just helped.
I reset the password, changed my email and turned on all the security settings I possibly could!
After my account was secured, the task of deleting all the crap that had been posted, changing the profile photo, name and bio back to its former glory began. It didn’t take too long, then I proudly announced my return!
I celebrated with a little dance around my flat, showered my dogs in treats and posted a rather ugly selfie to my stories.
It seemed appropriate…
I was thrilled to finally have my account back, it took a grand total of seven days to get it back, a lot of unhelpful auto responses and a great guy at facebook!
I will say though, I lost about 4000 followers in that time. It sucks, but in the grand scheme of things its minimal damage.
I guess the moral of the story is, don’t take your socials for granted. Especially if you run a business that relies on traffic from them!
Turn on those security settings, use long complicated passwords and don’t re-use them!
My whole attitude towards passwords and security settings has completely changed. Never again will I have the ‘it will never happen to me’ mentality!
If you’ve been hacked and are going through the same struggles, I wish you the best of luck. The best advice I can give you is don’t give up, be persistent and eventually you will succeed.
If you don’t already follow me on Instagram I’d love it if you’d come over and say hi! I always love meeting new people and having chats in the comments!
Until next time…
So School Me… and Emily!
- What are you doing to secure your social or blogging accounts?
- Does it scare you that this could happen to you and you could lose years of work and contacts?
- Have you lost an account already this way *stares menacingly at Twitter… *
- Questions, comments for Emily?