What to Do if your Instagram Account Gets Hacked, Plus how to Prevent it from Happening

If you're a regular reader of my blog, or follow me on Instagram (Laura_Yoder), you know the recent ordeal I went through when my Instagram was hacked. Even though this isn't entirely uncommon, there's not a lot of info out there as to what in the heck to do if this does happen, so let me help an IG'er out:)

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My Hacking Story

Hacker's can get in a number of different ways, some through the app itself, but my nuisance actually hacked my email! He/she guessed or had that info, which is an email account I rarely use, went to IG and clicked that they could not remember the password. IG emailed them the reset info and that was all they needed. They changed the password, changed the email associated with the account and bam, I was officially locked out!

When I realized what happened, I was stricken with panic, and immediately turned to IG for help - they have a form on their help site I quickly submitted. Soon after I reported it, I got an email from Instagram asking for some information to verify this was actually me. They were requesting a picture (basically a selfie) while I held up a piece of paper with the following three things: My name, my account name and a numerical code they had given to me. While this definitely had me questioning, "is this IG or the hacker?," I figured my account was already hacked, what did I have to lose. I complied. And I waited. And I waited. And I waited more.

Because I'm about as patient as a hungry lion waiting to be fed, especially when I've lost all control of something that actually belongs to me, I continued to email them, both through their help site, and by replying to the email they had sent me. When I didn't hear back from anyone, it made me wonder if they were even getting my emails. I "reported" the incident again - this time asking them to use a different email address to communicate. Same thing - they sent me an email asking for the same info and provided a different code - I of course sent them the info.

And then I waited (and waited), and waited a little more. I tried to find any information I could, but like I mentioned above, there's not a lot out there. The things I could find out indicated that I just needed to be persistent, email them 2-3 times a day if necessary. I did - from both accounts and more like 3-4 times a day from each of them (so 6-8 times per day). I also continuously reported the hack through the app itself. This didn't generate a new email from them, I guess since I had already submitted the account info, but I figured it couldn't hurt.

As many of you know - the hacker didn't post any pics (thank goodness), they didn't delete any pics (thank goodness), but they did change my profile pic, and removed my bio and instead inserted an "interesting" link to what I am guessing was their website, in hopes people would pay for the material the website offered. They also followed nearly 6,000 people (I was following right around 250) and made my account private. I am guessing they followed that large number of people knowing many of them would click on me, thinking, "who is this?" and when no info was included in the bio and no pics available to see (since they made my account private), the only thing they could do was click the link and hope their eyeballs wouldn't burn right out of their sockets.

Since the link the hacker posted was pornographic in nature, I had some of my close friends "report" my account as posting inappropriate content. This eventually led IG to temporarily take down my account, a huge relief to me - my fear was the hacker going in and posting "their kind" of content under my name. Huge YUCK!

All of this took place on a Wednesday through early Monday morning (Labor Day). On that day, I got an email from IG stating my account had been restored. But of course, I still didn't have access to it as although it was "back up," I didn't know the login, password, or email. My email campaign to IG began again, this time with a vengeance. I emailed them from both accounts every hour on the hour. FINALLY early that evening, I received an email that I had completed the necessary steps and it gave me a web address to essentially reset everything. It took about 30 seconds and I was back. Yay!!!

Because IG has limits on how many people you can follow or unfollow at a time, it was a slow process to get rid of the close to 6,000 people I wanted to unfollow. I started at about 60 per hour and slowly worked my way up to somewhere between 80 and 85. Finally, this past Sunday, they were gone and all was good in Laura's IG world.

Moral of the story, if this ever happens to you - persistence is key. IG doesn't have a phone number so email, email and email again.

Prevent a Hacking

So lets talk about what you can do to prevent this from ever happening to begin with:

  1. Set up Two-Factor Authentication. Immediately. When this came out, I didn't have it and believe it or not, I had read an article not too long ago reminding me to do this. I checked, I still didn't have it. If you do not have Two-Party Authentication (under your account settings), send a help ticket to IG. This simple move would have prevented my account from being hacked.
  2. Make sure you're logged out of other IG locations; for example, if you're logged in on your laptop, logout when you're done.
  3. Secure your email. I HATE to bash any company, but the email that was hacked was one I had set up for my old blog, using GoDaddy. I'm literally just waiting it for it to expire, but I've had problems with their security from time-to-time. Random emails would be sent to everyone in my contact list which should have been a red-flag, and although I would change my password it continued to happen. I feel silly saying this, but it didn't even dawn on me they could use this to hack my IG. GoDaddy seriously has some of the best customer service ever, but when I called them, the customer service rep I spoke to admitted their standard email wasn't all that secure, but I could pay for something better. Just a heads up for any of you in that situation.
  4. And of course, pick a secure password and change it up from time to time. 

So there you go - I hope you NEVER have to experience any kind of hacking - it's a terrible feeling. 

Now that you're feeling all kinds of worried about hackers, be sure to check out this post, 5 Tips to Grow Your Instagram Account - it's perfect for small business and bloggers alike!