My Instagram Account Has Been Hacked And Instagram Doesn’t Care — What Do I Do Now

By Suhyeon Choi [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

According to its community standards, Instagram insists the following:

“We want Instagram to continue to be an authentic and safe place for inspiration and expression. Help us foster this community. Post only your own photos and videos and always follow the law. Respect everyone on Instagram, don’t spam people or post nudity.”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? However, you find out pretty quickly once your account has been hacked that this statement isn’t everything it‘s cracked up to be.

PLEASE NOTE: This article is malleable and will be updated as the story progresses.

FINAL UPDATE (18/09/2018): I have my Instagram account back! The steps I followed are detailed below from the update dating from 19/08/2018.

So, you go to check your Instagram and discover that everything looks normal except — wait a minute — that’s not your name on the account! You delve further and, before long, you realise you can’t delve further because your account has been taken over by someone else.

In a panic, you start trying to contact Instagram but find out they are pretty hard to contact and their help centre is anything but helpful. So, what do you do next?

The short answer is: you’re screwed.

The medium answer is: Instagram doesn’t care about you, your account, or the fact someone has hacked it and is now in direct violation of copyright laws because they are using your images without your consent.

Now, here’s the long answer. Please, pull up a comfy chair and have a hot beverage on hand as this will take a while.

Firstly, everyone — and I mean everyone — will direct you to two places: the phone number for Instagram and the help centre link for hacked accounts. Both of these can be easily Googled. You know this because you have already done it. But you click the link and call again hoping something has changed.

Nothing has.

A hacker still has your Instagram account and Instagram doesn’t care.

Let’s have a closer look at Instagram’s number and help centre.

Instagram can be reached on the following number: 650–543–4800 (make sure to add your country area code). They also have the following email address: support@instagram.com. You will get the same response from both. If you ring Instagram, an automated message tells you how to contact the online help centre because — by their own admission — they are very busy.

If you email Instagram you will get the following response:

“ Hi,
You’ve reached us at a channel that we no longer support. Please visit the Help Center to find answers to many frequently asked questions and up-to-date forms you can use to contact us:
http://help.instagram.com/
We apologize for the inconvenience.
Sincerely,
The Instagram Team.”

So, what is this help centre and why is it not very helpful at all?

Well, if you do a search for “hacked account” in their help centre, you will be directed to a page that looks very helpful. If gives you plenty of ideas on how to try to reclaim your account. These things will work so long as the hacker has forgotten to change your email address.

But what decent hacker is that stupid?

There is no link on this page that will take you to a claim form so you can notify Instagram that your account has been hacked. If their suggestions don’t work, then tough.

There are other forms in the help centre, though. Creatively, I have attempted to contact Instagram using forms relating to copyright, trademark, infringement of rights, and impersonation. Each of these forms send back an automated message stating that if my issue is not related to the topic of the form then Instagram will likely not reply.

Once more they try to link me into the never-ending loop of “help centre.”

For the record, this is my favourite response after using the “impersonator” form:

How was this experience? What do you think, Instagram?

Instagram also are keen to let you know that any email addresses included in the forms will be shared with the person you are reporting.

Because, obviously, their rights as a hacker is more important than you as the original owner of the account.

I send back my own automated replies about how they suck. To which they reply with more automated responses.

We are stuck in another loop.

After none of this worked, I started tweeting at Instagram and the people who work for them. As to be expected: nothing. I also messaged Instagram on Facebook.

They replied with: help centre.

But wait — doesn’t Facebook now own Instagram? Yes, they do. And, when you call the Instagram support number, your phone will tell you it is Facebook you are ringing.

So, I notified Facebook that I had a problem.

Nothing.

At least they didn’t direct me to the help centre, I guess.

Now, I am at a loss as to what to do.

By Ed Yourdon from New York City, USA (Blonde in the sunlight Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I decide it is time to close this account down.

After screenshotting every one of my 779 Instagram photos, I then started reporting all of my own images as “spam or scam” in an effort to get my account closed down. If I can’t have my own images, then no one can. Each image had to be reported individually.

I guess you could call me tenacious.

My account was also reported by myself and many of my Facebook friends in an effort to get the account suspended or closed down. So far, nothing has worked.

At the time of publication, I am on day three of Instagram not caring about my account. Perhaps if I was an influencer, it might be different. Although, if it took Instagram five days to contact the owner of the Food account, then I guess you could say things have improved?

Even though I write for news outlets, my Instagram account is more personal than work orientated. Regardless, it shouldn’t be this way. Instagram should have an easy way for users to access them when there is a problem.

Now, I have an Instagram account I can’t even close down. Pictures of my children are there for this person to display as they see fit and that scares me.

I have Instagram and use it for work, how can I keep my account safe?

While there is no fool-safe way to protect your account from hackers, you can implement the two-step verification method for extra security. This means that changes cannot be made to your account without you receiving an automated text message from Instagram with a code to use to complete the process.

In theory, if a hacker tries to get into your account, they can’t while the two-step verification process in in place. However, since my account was hacked, I have set up another one so I can access the Instagram system. The first thing I did was set up this security measure. It worked perfectly while I set it up. Afterwards, when I went to change my email address, I got no such notification from Instagram with a code so I could complete the process.

Let me repeat that.

I changed my email address without the two-step verification process kicking in.

So, figuring I had done something wrong — because it couldn’t possibly be Instagram’s fault — I checked my details. My phone number was correct and I had also included my county’s area code.

The next time I made a change, the two-step verification process did kick in.

Well, sort of.

Instagram told me I would be getting a code sent directly to my mobile phone. I am still waiting.

Basically, if you want an Instagram account, you take your own risk.

My advice is to ditch Instagram altogether. However, if you can’t, screenshot every photo you post to Instagram so you have a copy of it along with the original on your phone and use an obscure email address that is exclusive use for your Instagram account. Create a username in that email address that is not at all related to you or your public persona or run the risk of a hacker working out your email address and taking over your account.

TL;DR: You’re screwed.

UPDATE 16/02/18: It seems that Instagram actually had a form to report your account has been hacked. This, however, disappeared sometime in the second half of 2017. This is also around the same time more than 6 million Instagram accounts were hacked according to the Telegraph.

Instagram’s co-founder, Mike Krieger, assured people everything was okay.

“We quickly fixed the bug, and have been working with law enforcement on the matter.”

One of the celebrities that was caught up in the middle of this debacle was Selena Gomez. However, Selena got her account back fairly quickly, likely because she has the blue tick and is influential. It probably helped that her hacker posted naked photos of Justin Bieber, as well. However, since then, it seems Instagram has removed all points of access and report forms relating to hacked accounts in their help centre.

UPDATE 19/02/18: Today I discovered that even by trying to fraudulently trying to claim a trademark infringement, Instagram will not hold true to their threat and close my account down.

Next, I pretended I was having advertising problems with my account. I told them I desperately wanted to pay for advertising using their platform, but couldn’t because my account had been hijacked. So far, nothing.

UPDATE 20/02/18 (Day 9 of the Instagram Saga): I think I have finally been contacted by one of those mythical creatures that reportedly work at Instagram: the elusive human. Emma contacted me with the following:

“Hi,

Thanks for contacting us. It looks like you’re having a problem
logging in. To get help with login issues or learn about what you can
do if you think that your account has been compromised, visit the Help
Center:

http://help.instagram.com/374546259294234/?ref=cr

Thanks,

Emma
Privacy Operations
Instagram.”

As you can see, the real workers at Instagram are just as unhelpful as the autoresonders :-(

Have you had any luck with contacting customer support on Instagram after your account was hacked? If you have, please let me know as I would love to hear how Instagram treated you.

UPDATE: 22/02/18: It turned out that Emma is a bot. I fear they are all bots within Instagram. It’s like AI, but without the I…

I have also found people are recommending some success by using the “Email address already in use” page. As you can see from the screenshot below, Instagram offers the following advice when clicking the hacked account option.

“We don’t provide support for accounts that were hacked through this contact form, but we do have other support options available to help you secure your account.”

And, when you click on the link taking you to the help centre, you get the following page.

Yet again, Instagram wins.

UPDATE 2 for 22/02/18: I have found an email address for press inquiries. I have emailed them explaining the situation from a reporter’s viewpoint. Hopefully my email signature linking to my Inquisitr byline will encourage them to reply with a real person.

UPDATE: 27/02/19: Today someone tried to change my password on my Amazon account. It was the same email address used for Instagram, so I suspect who the culprit is… Luckily, I have a two-step verification system set up for Amazon and I was notified.

UPDATE: 19/03/18: Well, the hackers have finally started posting images to my account. They have also changed my profile picture and my bio. My website address still remains public on the account. As a result of this, I have started reporting the account all over again to Instagram. One thing I have noticed is that some of the reporting options for impersonating accounts has changed slightly. Here’s hoping it means Instagram are actually trying to rectify the situation.

I have attempted to upload an image of myself holding verifiable ID. However, when I hit submit, nothing happens. Fuck you Instagram.

UPDATE: 26/07/18: After Modern Family actress, Sofia Vergara, got her Instagram account hacked, I had the opportunity to write about this issue for The Inquisitr. Let’s see if this finally gets through to Instagram that they have a problem.

A couple of petitions have also been started to try to get Instagram to acknowledge they have a problem. You can sign them below:

UPDATE 16/08/2018: Well, it seems since Mashable got involved and reported on this issue, Instagram has been forced to admit they have a problem. Apparently they will be fixing the problem shortly. I will believe it when I see it. Of course, it also meant I could write another article about it for the Inquisitr

***The following updates are the ones you are looking for in regard to getting your Instagram account back from hackers.***

UPDATE 19/08/2018: I decided to, once again, try all the ways of contacting Instagram that I have previously used in the past. Many of these avenues garnered the same result.

Except for the help centre link.

You know, that terrible “lack of help” centre? I followed their advice once more for the Android instructions (from this link: https://help.instagram.com/368191326593075 but you have to do it from your phone, not a PC) and instead of having no luck, Instagram actually responded to my request asking for a photo of myself with a code they had provided. I had heard rumours that this response was possible but had never had any luck with getting this sort of reply from Instagram before.

Now, I wait. It could just all be automated bullshit again. But, maybe Instagram is trying to fix their shit since Mashable started reporting on it. I bloody hope so. Yet, I hold little faith in Instagram anymore, so I won’t be getting my hopes up just yet.

UPDATE 20/08/18: I got the following message from Instagram/Facebook today. I suspect Ella is one of the automated responses and not a real person.

Hi,

Thanks for your response. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to confirm that you own this account based on what you sent us. Please reply to this email with a photo of yourself holding the code we sent in our last email.

Make sure that the photo you send:
- Includes a hand-written copy of the code, along with your full name and Instagram username
- Clearly shows both the code and your face
- Is attached to your reply in JPEG format
Once we get the photo of you holding the code, we can confirm your identity and help you get into your account.
Thanks,
Ella

So, I took another picture of myself, added more detail to the handwritten response and sent it off again.

So, I wait some more…

UPDATE #2 20/08/18: I received the following message from “Ella.”

Hi,
We can’t give you access to this account or continue to process your request because we haven’t received an acceptable image to verify account ownership.
 
Thanks,
Ella.

I emailed back asking for further clarification as to what should be included in the image because, as far as I was concerned, I had included everything required.

UPDATE 07/09/18: After never hearing back from Instagram in regard to seeking clarification to why they were not accepting my image, I decided to do a new picture and try again.

This time I used a thick black texta and wrote the code they had provided along with my name and username. I made sure my hand was in the shot just like they asked and took my photo next to a window, so there was no question of shadowing.

Instagram quickly emailed me back and it appears that that image was acceptable to the bots at Instagram.

Hi,
Thanks for contacting Instagram. In order to help you get back into your account, we’ll need the following information:
1. A brief description of the issue you’re experiencing, including the date you last had access to your account and how you lost access.
2. The email address or mobile phone number you used to sign up for your account. If you signed up using your phone number, please also include your device type (example: iPhone, Android, iPad, Other).
3. Any previous usernames you’ve had.
Keep in mind that we won’t be able to help you until we receive this information. For help logging into your account, you can also visit the Help Center:
https://help.instagram.com/374546259294234/?ref=cr
Thanks,
The Instagram Team
Jinn

I have answered the questions. Which means it’s back to waiting for a reply from the Instagram bots…

UPDATE: 18/09/2018: I received an email back from Instagram! Like, an actual email that was useful. In it, they requested I log out of all my Instagram accounts on my PC, tablet, and phone. Then, I had to click on the link they provided and change my password.

I did what they asked and — somewhat anti-climatically — my account was back in my hands.

Seriously. After SEVEN MONTHS of Instagram fucking me around, I have my account back. Yes, I am excited to have finally rectified the problem. But, I am still incredibly pissed that it took this long.

As a result, I have asked Instagram to verify my account in an effort to prevent this sort of kerfuffle in the future.

So, there you have it guys, my saga involving my hacked Instagram account has FINALLY been resolved!