I was used to receiving the occasional email from Instagram, but I started getting worried when messages began showing up in Turkish. Suddenly I was unable to log into my account despite repeated attempts. By the time I moved on to the idea of account recovery, I was hoping to contact Instagram directly. This was a lot harder than I thought it would be – it’s surprisingly hard to get hold of Instagram for this sort of customer service! Assuming that there was an easily-accessible phone number for this purpose turned out to be one of my biggest mistakes. Fortunately, I ended up receiving a lot of helpful support from my fellow users, and their advice and resources helped a great deal in fixing my hacking problem.
Not long after I accepted the fact that my Instagram account had been hacked, I started worrying about seeing it get deleted. I was pretty clear on the fact that deleted Instagram accounts can’t be recovered, so the idea of some strange hacker blowing mine up was severely distressing.
My feelings of worry deepened a few hours into this ordeal when I started having trouble finding my account. When I couldn’t locate it, I assumed the worst. Fortunately, I heard from one of my followers – my sister, in fact – and got a better understanding of what had happened. The hacker had changed my account’s username.
I discovered later that this is a very common tactic for Instagram hackers and that there are ways and services to recover Instagram accounts. They resort to multiple username changes to make the entire situation harder for you to track and resolve. If a hacker can make it impossible for you to find your own account, they’re a big step closer to getting away with their hijacking.
This is just one of the immediate steps a hacker will take as soon as they gain access to your Instagram account. They’ll change not just your username and password but also your email address and any other contact information in your account. All of these actions worked together to keep me out of my account.
As far as I know, my Instagram account was targeted entirely at random. I do think I made my account more attractive to hackers by not turning two-factor authentication.
Instagram Account Hijacking: Next Steps
As soon as I understood what had happened, I tried reaching out to the Instagram team through typical social media channels. I tweeted @Instagram and sent private facebook messages. These steps did nothing. I didn’t find a lot of help on Instagram’s website, either.
What eventually started helping me was trying to log into the Instagram app on my phone. After clicking the “trouble logging in” link, I discovered a button for making a report. This allowed me to submit my original account name, my original email address, a description of my problem, and a fresh email address for contact.
While I was waiting to hear back from Instagram, I started looking for steps I could take on my own. I went back to those Turkish emails in my inbox. I decided to try and get past the language barrier. Since I knew that most emails from Instagram close with a link that had to do with resetting your password if you didn’t request a change, I looked for a similar link at the bottom of the Turkish emails. Success! Finding the link in the expected place and clicking it gave me the opportunity to reset my email and password.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of my ordeal. The hacker took steps to slow this process down – namely, turning on two-factor authentication. This meant that logging in required both my password and a custom code sent to a phone via text message. Since the hacker had associated his own phone number with the account, I couldn’t get that code.
This is about where my Instagram friends started helping out. One of them took an extremely wise step: He created a new account with my original username and sent me all of the login details.
I have to stress how important this is if a hacker changes the name of your Instagram account! The platform can’t ever register two accounts with the same name. If a third party comes in and registers your original, preferred account name during your hacking crisis, it will be that much harder – possibly even impossible! – to get things back to normal.
My Recovery Process
After I submitted my report through the Instagram app, I got a response within about 24 hours. The Instagram team needed additional information to confirm that I was the proper owner of the disputed account. One of the steps I had to take was writing down a detailed message for them and taking a photograph of the note next to my face. Let me tell you, those snapshots did not exactly show off the sunny side of my disposition!
It took three more days to prove my identity to Instagram’s satisfaction. They eventually delivered a code I could use in place of the two-factor code my account now required.
With all the hoops finally aligned for me to reclaim my account, I acted as quickly as I could. First I logged into the blank account with my original username and renamed it to free up space for my main account. Then I reclaimed the name immediately after regaining access to my hacked account. The next step, of course, was entering all-new security details and enabling two-factor authentication with my own phone number.
My Tips For Dealing With Instagram Hacking
While my Instagram experiences haven’t always been entirely positive, I was truly devastated to lose control of my account. I had a personal photo collection and a unique collection of followers that took me more than four years to build up. Because I want to spare anybody else the sort of worry I experienced, I’ve put together a few tips for dealing with an Instagram hack:
- Stay Calm! Panicking or getting angry will just make it harder to recover your account.
- Check your other social media accounts. Change all of your emails and passwords so that the hacker can’t use your Instagram account to leapfrog to other platforms.
- Register a new Instagram account under your original username if the hacker changes your account’s name.
- Always use two-factor authentication to maximize your account’s security.
- Be patient when contacting Instagram. As described above, it took me four days and multiple attempts to get my problem addressed properly.
- Seek help through your other social media accounts. I could not have fixed this issue without the tremendous outpouring of support I received from online friends and good Samaritans.