“I Used To Be @diego on Instagram” — How a Celebrity Stole My Username

Diego Pulido
Apr 25, 2018 · 7 min read

This is how I was robbed out of my Instagram username, and how a Mexican actor inexplicably ended up with it.

As a member of the Instagram community since it started in 2010 (with 13K+ followers), I have declined several requests to buy it for years. It is odd that now, all of a sudden, my username has ended up in the hands of more famous “Diego” — all without my consent.

Did I get hacked? Maybe. Was this an “inside job”? Unsure.


What Happened?

I got hacked earlier in January of 2018. The @diego account ended up having 0 followers and 0 post for about 36 hours. After sending a “selfie-mugshot” to Instagram’s support holding a piece of paper with a handwritten code, and later sending another one of me holding a state-issued ID to prove I was the @diego I claimed to be, I was able to retrieve my account and all my content. I changed my password to a nuclear-level-of-security length and voilá: life went on.

Back when my only claim to fame in life was being the only “diego” on Instagram…

However, sometime in March, I was surprised to have received 3 emails from Instagram, informing my password, my contact information, and my username had been changed.

huh?

A regular “forgot my password” request would then go to a different email already (that wasn’t mine, nor real — see below). This time, however, my account was still active and all of my content available under a different username.

Whoever did this “lovingly” re-baptized my Instagram account under the name of @diegorips — then immediately changed to @diegoripz. Nice…


“From the makers of @diegoripz — introducing: gmaixxjxjfh.com”

The @diego account looked like this for a brief moment after all these changes took place. It looked as if my account had been hacked by a Juggalo:

Eventually, the account went from this to “inactive” for about 4 days. During this time, I attempted to go the “usual route” to get support. At least I already knew how to quickly get to the step in the Instagram app where you can explain your account has been hacked (not the easiest option to find at first, by the way).

The problem is that this time, my account was not in jeopardy: instead my username had been robbed!

I don’t see an option for “Mexican Netflix star now is posting content on Instagram using my username…”

I tried to explain this at length, time and again, with every piece of communication. All I kept getting back (after sending several deeply annoyed-looking selfie-mugshots), were emails saying “It’s easy to get back on Instagram! Click here to change the password for @diegoripz…

Of course: my email address was now associated with this “kewl” new username. The System Has Failed.

I have proof of all these communications with Instagram support that kept going nowhere— but I’ll spare you the screenshots of repetitive, long paragraphs explaining this situation.


As someone who owns a popular name in social media, I am used to getting dozens of requests to sell (or simply give up) my username. I have never been opposed to selling it. In fact I have turned down a few thousand dollars for it.

I usually don’t respond to these request, unless I think someone is serious enough, or looks like the account requesting such a thing at least appears to have some credibility.

Here’s the latest example of such an exchange. The name & profile picture have been excluded “to protect the safety of the indivudual”.

Oddly enough, it was a day after I replied to this message that my account went through such a forced change of identity.

Coincidence?

This is what I got on my Direct Message inbox the day after this all happened:

Nah, “Bro”, I’m done talking to you…

This still has me thinking: how was this exchange related to what happened if at all? Is this something Instagram could look into? (Hey Mike Krieger, hmu!)


Not a full week after my precious “online real estate” had been stolen, I came to find out @diego had a new owner: a Mexican actor (I was up to this point unaware of), but goes by the name of Diego Boneta.

Was it because I don’t have my own Netflix series coming up?

Señor Boneta is clearly famous enough to have a web site with his casual-looking-to-the-side studio photo as his landing page… but wait: what do I see there at the bottom left when I point my cursor to the Instagram logo?

Was he not proud enough to be the only “@diegoboneta” on Instagram?

I, of course, attempted to contact Mr. Boneta directly via email (he does have it on display on his website as contact@diegoboneta.com).

I wrote to him twice (in Spanish).No response yet. I can’t blame him: he is probably busy impersonating Mexican music legend Luis Miguel somewhere

At this point I am unsure whether the “more famous Diego” bought this from some unscrupulous characters not knowing it had been stolen — or if he is involved in the whole heist. This is primarily why I wrote him: not only to inform him, but to find out under what circumstances he ended up with my username on Instagram.

Well, like we say in Spanish:

I will write a Spanish version of this post, in which I will also share the emails I wrote to Mr. Boneta. In full. (Update soon).


I ask myself again: how was this possible? Is this some next-level of hackery? or was someone inside Instagram involved in this whole situation?

It didn’t take me long to find out that I haven’t been the only only who has been bluntly robbed of his Instagram username for no known reason other than simply “being cursed” by having the same given name (and surname) of someone famous.

Case in point: Andrés Iniesta, who also had his username changed and given to (you guess it) the more famous Andrés Iniesta

You can read all about Andrés’ ordeal here.

And this is, of course, not the only case prior to mine: back in 2014 Instagram reassigned @katheleen to an employee without consent. I’m sure the several are others out there.

But even this case was eventually solved. Mine hasn’t (yet).


Last but not least: I must mention that I was fortunate enough to get some help in the matter from someone that works at Facebook and saw me tweet about what had happened. An internal ticket was submitted and I provided said Facebook employee every bit of proof in my power to get someone with the ability to do something to take a look at this.

Unfortunately, I have yet to hear from anyone at Facebook.

I also reached out to someone at Instagram, who kindly offered to look at the internal ticket and see what was going on. Unfortunately days went by, and after reaching back out to find out if there were any news, this is all I got:

I appreciate sincerely that this Instagram employee (who I’ve never met but have briefly been in touch with in the past) even offered to help look into it. Clearly it appears there is nothing he (or anyone) can do about this.

But the question remains: How is this possible?

This is sad and rather angering. It makes me feel helpless.

Many people out there invest a lot of time and effort creating these social media identities, but it appears some of these platforms don’t seem to respect or safeguard them for the true owners — sometimes with the clear intention of benefiting users who appear to be “more equal than others”.


And thus we conclude this unfortunate, unsolved digital crime.

If you have been the victim of such obscure types of digital wrongdoing while being an Instagram user; or know of someone who has; or simply feel as disgruntled as I do to see this happen without resolution; please share, clap, retweet, etc.

Also, if you have read all of this and think: “hey! I know someone at Facebook/Instagram who could help or at least pass this message along…” please do! And please do get in touch with me: I have several more pieces of information to share with the right people.

In the mean time, you may continue enjoying photos of my cat and what I have for lunch everyday over at my new (at least now brand-consistent with every other social network) Instagram account: instagram.com/ixdiego


P.S. If you’re reading this, “Diego”… yes: I still want my username back.


Update (June 2018)

I opened my Instagram account settings, and found this: (I can still see my former user name, along with the other 2 usernames hackers used to “re-baptize” my account.

I also recently came across this article that describes a very similar situation to mine: hacked T-Mobile account leading up to stealing an Instagram username:

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2018/05/t-mobile-employee-made-unauthorized-sim-swap-to-steal-instagram-account/

Diego Pulido

Written by

UX Design Lead at JP Morgan Chase. iPhoneographer. Ableton Pusher. Coffee enthusiast ☕️ creator of the Diegoccino™ 🇨🇴 http://diego.soy