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Posted by on Sep 10, 2018 in Blog, Featured

Instagram Hacked? – Good Luck Getting Your Account Back

Instagram Hacked? – Good Luck Getting Your Account Back

Bad customer support can be infuriating.  And, with Instagram, there really appears to be no customer service at all–at least from human beings.  Just bots that answer your message.  Here’s the ridiculous saga of how my Instagram account got hacked and I received no reasonable support at all from Instagram.

Russian Hackers

Like many people, my Instagram account is the documentation of my life.  While I use Facebook to post ordinary, every day things, Instagram is reserved only for my best photography and the most important events of my life.  It’s my digital scrapbook of my life.  I thought I would have it for the rest of my life.

So, imagine my frustration, when on the evening of August 3, 2018, I noticed that I couldn’t log in to my account as normal.  My immediate reaction was that I made some kind of mistake when I had recently linked my Facebook account to my Instagram account.  Yeah, that must be the problem.

As I was working on that, I received an email from Facebook (not Instagram) since, of course, Facebook owns Instagram.  It appeared as though my account had been hijacked by a Russian email address.  No problem I thought.  I had two level authentication hooked up and all I had to do was click on the link from the suspicious email address and everything would go back to normal.

Email Change Notification From Instagram

Hi ballparkbob,

The email on your Instagram account was changed from <email removed> at 21:34 (PDT) on Friday, August 03 2018.

Your new email is nasunowgerasim@mail.ru. If you didn’t change your email address, revert this change.

Not so easy.  When I clicked on the “revert this change” link, it took me to a broken page.

Here’s the next email that I got from Instagram.  Apparently, Instagram is now happy, because I fixed my own problem!

Instagram’s BOT Emails Think I Fixed My Problem

Hi,

Thanks for contacting us. We’ve looked into your report and it appears your issue has been resolved. If you’re still having trouble accessing your account, please reply to this email or visit the Help Center:

https://help.instagram.com/374546259294234/?ref=CR

Thanks,

The Instagram Team

Oh goodie.  Another link to your Help page at Instagram!  I’ve only been there a few hundred times and it really should be called an (Un)Help(ful) page.

How is this happening?  Did the hacker get into my email account also?  Did the hacker have some other way to hack Instagram’s security process?  Or, did the link from Instagram not work in the first place?  I’ll never really know, because this was just the start of a month-long ordeal in dealing with Instagram and its horrendous customer service.

 

Why Me?

That’s the question that all ordinary people think when they get hacked.  I get why you would want to hack a celebrity or politician with millions of followers, but why me?  I’ve never had anything against Russians.  I actually like vodka.  Did I criticize Trump too much?  What could the hackers possibly think they could get out of me?

But, good news would soon come my way.  My daughter contacted me and said I must have been hacked.  She had found my account and “ballparkbob” was now “maverilkira.”  The good news was that the account was intact, except that the profile picture was changed from me to some medieval looking version of Maverilkira.  All of my 777 images were there and all of my 801 followers were also still there.  Moreover, I had not received any reports that my followers were receiving pornographic images or Viagra sales solicitations.  All I needed to do was notify Instagram to return my account to its rightful owner and all would be great again.

The Hacker Who Stole My Instagram Account

—–

So, there was my account.  You could still see my pictures on the account.  Nothing seemed changed at all.  I just couldn’t access it.  Whew!  No problem.  After all, I own a mobile-first digital advertising agency called Purplegator and we spend a lot of money with Facebook and Instagram.  I have a leg up on the others that reportedly had been hacked.  I’ll just contact my VIP Facebook rep and he’ll be able to get my account back no problem.

My Facebook VIP rep was very helpful and kept me informed of his progress almost daily. I  was in good hands I figured.  Until 14 days later on August 17 when I received this message from my Facebook VIP rep!

 

My Facebook VIP Rep to the Rescue (Not)

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your patience! My specialists have let me know they do not support these types of issues. You will need to follow this channel: https://help.instagram.com/149494825257596?helpref=uf_permalink.

If you have any other questions or concerns in regards to this, please shoot me a message!

You may receive our survey and we ask that you please help us improve by taking a few seconds to tell us about your experience chatting with me. Thank you for contacting Facebook Ad Support. Have yourself a wonderful day Bob!

<Name Removed>
Facebook, Global Marketing Solutions

—–

Well, isn’t that nice?  After 10 business days, all my Facebook VIP rep can do is send me a link to the Instagram help page.  This is just great.  The same help page that tells me to log in to my account before sending any message to Instagram help!  I can’t log in to my account!  I’ve been hacked!

I guess I’m on my own here.  Not even my Facebook VIP rep is willing/able to help me!  #Uggabugga

 

BOT Email Replies, Links that are Broken, Unhelpful Log In Suggestions

Instagram used to have a customer support phone number and email, but these are not supported any more.  I guess Instagram and its billion users have made it untenable to worry about a single user who was hacked, even if that user is the president of an agency that spends half a million dollars per year with it.

At this point, I began trying numerous ways to get my account back from maverilkira.  I spent countless hours reading what other people were doing on Reddit, Twitter ,and through other online resources.  In the end, I could not get any responses from Instagram that were helpful to me.

I even reached out to two people that I know personally that worked at Instagram.  Both tried, but basically all they could do was fill out the same forms that I was filling out on the app and online.  I didn’t stop there, I began hitting up LinkedIn and the Instagram employees that are from my hometown or who attended my colleges to see if they could help me.  All were very nice, but couldn’t do anything to help me.  They actually seemed surprised that they couldn’t help me and also seemed surprised that hacking was even a problem on Instagram!

My retweeting all of the #InstagramHacked Tweets didn’t seem to get any responses either.  The @Instagram Twitter account was useless and didn’t respond to anybody.  I even tried Tweeting and friending Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.  Surely they would escalate this problem if they became aware.  I even tried signing a petition from all of my fellow hackees to force Instagram to do something.  Nothing was done.  I guess when you have a billion users, you need not worry about single user problems, even if it was your fault to allow your service to get hacked.

On five occasions, through the normal Instagram email BOT system, I got to the point where I was asked to send in a photo of myself holding a sign that included a number and my picture.  Instagram would then match it to images on the hacked account and give me back my access to my account.  At last, this must be a job done by a human and not a BOT.  I could explain my situation and they’d listen.

The first four times I sent in the picture, I received an email back asking me to be sure to send the image from my account on the app and not another account!  Ugh!  I can’t log in to my account!  I responded to the emails to let them know this, but then either the email BOT conversation stopped or I got the dreaded “It looks like you fixed your problem” email back.  My detailed email showed images and details down to the minute of what I had been doing over the past four weeks to try to get the account back from the hacker.  Two minutes after my message (not nearly enough time to actually read my message), I received a reply from Instagram.  I did this several times and each time I responded to the email, I received the same email back from Instagram.  Each response I sent got a bit testier until I finally just responded with “You Suck.”  Yep, same email reply.

I did get some detailed instructions from a Twitter user who was able to recover their hacked account so I tried a fifth time to send in my picture.  I used almost the exact same wording as the person who successfully recovered the account.  Surely, the fifth time would be the charm?

No such luck.  After filling out the form for a fifth time and receiving a message back that I would be able to recover my account, the link led me to a link that allowed me to get my new placeholder account on ballparkbob back, not the hacker account that stole my identity.  Thanks Instagram.  Thanks for actually reading the lengthy document that I sent.

 

The End of BallparkBob (by Maverilkira)

On Sunday, September 2, 2018, exactly a month after the hacking, I noticed that the hacker account of “maverilkira” had removed my images, although it still shows “777 posts” at the top of the account.  According to information I’ve read online, the account has been deleted and no recovery of the images is possible.

My Account is Deleted

 

Bob Bentz hacked Instagram account

 

I have reached out to everybody I know at Instagram to try to find out if I should give up at this point, but have received no response.  This is odd, because they were previously responsive — at least the humans.  I suspect they simply don’t know.  If I was Sofia Vergara, maybe they’d be able to replace the hacked account with all of the images intact, but I doubt I have the same level of influence.

Instagram Affirms My Hacked Account is Dead

Sometimes you just don’t want to admit it, but Instagram finally affirmed with me that my account (the hacker account “maverilkira”) was dead when they sent this email to me.

Hi,

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.

Thanks,

The Instagram Team

Russian Collusion

As a last ditch effort, I even tried colluding with the Russians.  I sent an email to the hacker and asked him/her how much they wanted to return my account intact.  I am still awaiting a response.  Maybe they are working on the midterm elections now instead.

The Sad State of My Current Instagram Account

One thing you will want to do when your account is hacked is to go back in and reserve your old username.  Only then, can you be sure that somebody else (or the hacker) won’t grab your same username.  This was advice I received online.  So, I do have my username back, but I’ve lost all the images and nearly all of my followers.  The lone post I have up is a memorial to my account — a screenshot of my beloved maverilkira.  Maybe one day, I’ll jump back on the Instagram bandwagon, but at this point, I’m simply too angry to become an Instagram super-user again.

 

Bob Bentz hacked Instagram account

 

Hey Instagram, Can You Help Me?  PLEASE.

I’m not sure that it is entirely true that Instagram can’t restore my account to its original state.  If a hacker removed Sofia Vergara’s account, I suspect it would find its way back to its original state.  So, I’m still holding out hope.  It’s likely the same level of hope of the Baltimore Orioles winning the ’19 World Series, but it’s hope nonetheless.

In a way, I guess this is my final effort in writing this article about my pain in working with Instagram’s lack of customer service.   Perhaps some sympathetic human who works at Instagram will read this article and reach out to help me and find a way to restore my account, its 777 image posts, and its 800+ followers.

But, I’m not holding my breath.

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