For the last 72+ hours my anxiety has been through the roof about what I’m about to tell you. I lost a ton of sleep, I lost my appetite, I lost my Instagram. My personal Instagram account that I remade at some point in early 2017 (?) I think. I was first driven away from the app (now owned by Facebook) in early 2016 when someone made a horrible account impersonating me. It was taken down after I reported it but the incident left me so shaken that I left.
Then when I returned to Instagram I kept my account private and the account was full of selfies, nature photos, video game screenshots, special moments like concerts and videos of prints being signed by a certain actor, silly reels for the hell of it, pictures of my cats when I still had them, etc. spanning over several years.
So why now? Well, it’s storytime, and this is going to be a long ranty post so bear with me. Last Saturday evening I received a message from a friend I knew from high school, saying she needed my help voting for her in some influencer campaign. It all seemed genuine to me and I am very smart to recognize scams when I see them, maybe this one was just more subtle which made me let my guard down, maybe because I’m too literal. Anyway, it all happened so fast, I couldn’t get into my Instagram account anymore, two-factor authentication was enabled without my input and even though I changed my password to be safe, it was already too late.
In short, my account was hacked. Hours later some of my friends messaged me warning me what had happened and I told them what had just occurred. Some of those friends reported they were hacked as well thanks to the same hacker. I spent my whole Saturday night panicking following all the instructions Instagram support prompted me to: send a picture of myself with a written piece of paper containing my username and a code they sent me. Since the hacker had changed my email address to some random scammy one, I had to also go through another form of identity verification by doing a video selfie.
At some point that night and the following morning, support responded saying they confirmed my identity and gave me a backup code to enter to regain access. I logged in with a new password and entered the code. But just as I was in the process of reactivating the 2fa, changing the number, email and everything, all of a sudden the screen on my phone went black showing an error message and the hacker had regained control somehow. Most hackers work faster using bots to hack multiple accounts like lightning, way quicker than any human being’s pace. This happened at least two more times when I repeated the recovery process before my anxiety started to reach a breaking point.
I was so upset, even though part of me realized that I didn’t have a huge reason to be because all of the things I posted on that account that I wanted to remember the most, were also on my Facebook, saved on my computer, or even physically printed out. I had also spent a significant amount of time that morning changing all of my passwords in other places and enabling 2fa as well if the option was suggested. I had also recently added some people I chatted with a lot on IG to my Facebook so I wouldn’t lose touch with them.
All of my other accounts are secure and even my other IG account I made to market this blog is still active, but I cannot report the hacked account with it because the hacker blocked it. So perhaps I should be grateful that it was just my Instagram and not anything more crucial than that right?
But what makes me upset now is not the fact that I lost access to my main IG account, but also the fact that IG themselves have ceased to be helpful. One of my colleagues said her account was hacked and she did the same process but acted quickly enough to stay in control, so it got me asking what did I do wrong? I can’t watch my smartphone like a hawk all the time waiting for that precious confirmation recovery email can I?
I have even resorted to emailing IG directly to report phishing and hacking, desperately hoping that I’ll get a response from an actual human being rather than a bot but no avail. Amidst this frustration, it became clear to me that I would rather just have the account deleted than regain it. My mom said to me that often what these hackers do is they will continue to fight when they see the desperation of the original owner to regain control and they will push and push to keep it out of that person’s hands. In short, she was trying to tell me that the best thing to do is just let it go.
Seems harsh, I know, because it makes it sound like I’m letting the hacker win. But, I realized she was right because the more I spent watching my email and hoping that I’ll somehow be victorious next time, the more unstable I became mentally. I withdrew, had crying spells, didn’t eat… Stupid right making a mountain out of this molehill. I think it’s because Instagram was my gateway to keeping up to date with any actors and musicians I was in love with and I often enjoyed scrolling my feed there rather than Facebook because there wasn’t as much drama. There were also other people I followed that made some of the most amazing content I had ever seen, like one guy who does this insanely great digital photography for video games, especially with some characters I love and I always looked forward to seeing their creations.
It was basically my timekiller, but as I reflect on this, I also realized I was addicted and I didn’t even know it. I always had a demand inside of me to upload every screenshot I took from a video game to share my progress. It was like my brain was telling me, no you can’t play any more of this game until you share that screenshot on your Instagram besides Steam. Then there was to remember to take a selfie every now and then. Sure, I wasn’t trying to get famous or anything but it’s like Instagram had this inner voice telling me, don’t forget to update your profile regularly otherwise your followers will forget you! I feel like it made me neglect other hobbies too: it’s easier to squeeze in reading but things like drawing, my adult colouring books, etc. have been neglected for too long.
I was planning to draw the Cyberdemon from DOOM 2016 and still haven’t! Also back in the day before IG, I was NEVER caught up with anything famous people did, I would just google images of them to swoon my heart out or watch interviews, even if they were from five years ago and that was satisfying enough.
Since I thought it was better to just have the hacked account deleted, and I had no power to do so, I posted a message on my Facebook to tell my friends to report the account. I also thought about using the account I still had as my new main account, but staying incognito this time, and I thought about making a new personal account, but that last option proved to be suspicious when I made it and then Instagram said I would be able to access in 24 hours.
After that time elapsed and I attempted to log in to it, I got an error message that that account was disabled. What the actual fuck? All I did was make that account and post one selfie with a description of what happened to my old account. Was it because there was no profile picture yet? Was my description in the post too long? All they said was it violated the terms and didn’t give a specific explanation as to what was violated and said I could appeal if I believed it was a mistake.
Still mentally recovering from the hack, this made me even angrier. First Instagram doesn’t do anything other than their automated responses regarding a hack, and now this? Yes I could just report that an error was made but I’m starting to wonder is it really worth it at this point after all that I’ve been through? Maybe it’s time for me to leave Instagram again, this time, for good. I’m obviously no longer satisfied with the way they’ve handled things there in terms of security.
Yes, I’ve read many stories about how people went out of their way to regain their accounts, maybe they persisted like crazy with the recovery process longer than I did, and some of them even hired hackers to do it, but that’s likely a scam too. I don’t want to pay someone to hack my account to kick another hacker out.
Plus, it’s not the most ideal place for me in terms of this brand, I can’t share any links, just images, while Facebook and Twitter are much friendlier to promoting a writer’s content.
I wish I could rewind time and stop myself from doing what I did that got me hacked in the first place, because I feel awful for the mistake I made. I have a bad habit of being too hard on myself.
The lesson I have learned here is that not all phishing attempts are obvious. Sometimes I worry about what the hacker is going to do with my account: will they use my pictures for their own profit? Will they change my profile in any way? There’s a good chance they may not do anything, they might just use it to keep hacking more accounts and use those accounts hacked to hack even more. I have done everything I can to alert my friends and followers on other platforms.
Congratulations, you read this all the way to the end, so now I am asking you readers, my personal Instagram account that was hacked called em.monsterlady, please report it. Any help would be appreciated in taking this hacker down.
Until then, I guess I’m just going to stick to Facebook, Twitter, Discord, and maybe see if I can still access my Snapchat account.