If Your Instagram Account Gets Hacked…

If Your Instagram Account Gets Hacked - roomfortuesday.comWhat a week, friends. Whew! I’m trying to keep my head above water and am playing catch up over here, but today I promised to share more about my IG situation. Last Friday, I found myself in the unthinkable scenario I’ve feared since my career on social media got started… my account got hacked. It was my Room for Tuesday / personal account and the place I’ve shared memories with you for more than a decade. It holds the progress and evolution of our home renovations- for multiple homes we’ve lived in, memories from our travels, photos and videos of our dogs- Cash & Crosby, and our beloved Finn who crossed the rainbow bridge, and has been a place where I’ve documented our life. While it feels like a sacred, personal archive for me, it’s also very much tied to my small business and how I make a living. The moment I knew what was happening, I panicked. I wanted to share how my account got hacked, how I was able to recover it so quickly, and my thoughts & tips for other small business owners who rely on Instagram for income. There’s a lot to unpack and share, so if you’re interested or think this post could be helpful for you- click through!

After an already difficult week, I logged into my computer Friday morning with the intention of checking emails, catching up on work, and crossing my daily tasks off the to-do list. Without a second thought, I opened an email from Instagram. The previous week, I had applied for verification and was expecting an email from them anyway, so there was nothing suspicious or odd about receiving a legitimate looking email from Instagram. Nothing was misspelled, the logo was accurate, the content made sense, and it came from an Instagram email. I had no reason to believe it was malicious. I also had two factor authentication turned on (with a screen grab of my backup codes at the ready), a very difficult password in place (numbers, letters, characters, etc), and took all of the necessary precautions to avoid situations like this.

If Your Instagram Account Gets Hacked - roomfortuesday.comI clicked into the email and I immediately (within a minute) began receiving push notifications that someone had logged into my IG account (with a German IP address), changed my password, and had reset my two factor authentication. Obviously it was not me, so I tried to beat the hacker to the punch to change my settings and password, but it was too late. It happened within a matter of minutes. I began receiving threatening emails from the hacker requesting money to regain access to my account. I did not respond. The hacker removed my links, depersonalized my account, and even went as far to change my account name. He said he was selling my information, content, and account on the dark web. More emails came, more threats were made, and I tried to figure out how to proceed.

During this unnerving phase, with adrenaline on overdrive, it’s difficult to fight the urge to respond… but I knew not to reply. I was spiraling. Mostly because my privacy felt violated, I thought I had lost years of memories, and I knew my business would quite frankly be ruined without Instagram… over a decade of work, down the drain.

I sat at my computer in tears (still in my pajamas), reading tutorials on regaining access, testimonials from others in similar situations, watching YouTube tutorials & testimonials, all while trying to map out my next steps. I followed Instagram’s protocol for hacking– I reported that my account had been hacked. I took screen shots of everything… push notifications, the threatening emails from the hacker, my attempts at trying to regain access, etc. Jordan helped me post from our Tuesday Made account, asking others for help. I spent hours at my desk trying everything I knew to do… with no luck.

If Your Instagram Account Gets Hacked - roomfortuesday.comFinally, after getting nowhere, I realized I had to rely on people. Who did I know? Who works at Meta that I can connect with? I called friends of friends. I tried to rack my brain for connections. Someone messaged me on my shop account. Another friend said she had a connection. A friend’s brother called and offered to help. Thanks to incredibly kind people, I was finally getting somewhere and felt supported- unlike the basic forum Instagram instructs people to use once their account has been compromised.

My biggest piece of advice if your account has been hacked? Find someone who works at Meta… a person you can actually talk to on the phone or via email.

You’ll also need to create or share a new email address that has never been connected to an Instagram account previously. That’s how they’ll instruct you to regain access after reporting your account has been compromised. Make sure you have a backup email at the ready.

The entire process to recover my account took four days- which is very fast in comparison to most, for which I’m thankful. Again- kind people made this happen for me. I also received lots of notes from those who have been hacked and are in the same situation, who still have not regained access to their accounts- months and years later. I sympathize with them and definitely feel disheartened that this is far too common and it’s difficult to find help. The platforms themselves certainly aren’t helpful.

If Your Instagram Account Gets Hacked - roomfortuesday.comThroughout this very strange process, I learned a LOT. Here are my best tips for avoiding this situation, protecting your account, recovering your account (if you’re in the same boat), and keeping your small business afloat:

  1. Turn on two factor authentication AND set up authentication apps.
  2. Don’t open any emails from Instagram- even if they’re legitimate. They can always contact you in the app directly.
  3. Post photos of yourself (including your face) in your feed at least every 6-10 photos… so AI can recognize you (my selfie videos failed to work and I submitted 20+).
  4. If your account is compromised, their FAQ and standard process isn’t likely to work. Instead, rely on people… find someone (legitimate) who works at Meta and speak to them directly.
  5. Be aware of scammers and hackers who claim they work at Meta… this is another hack that is gaining popularity.
  6. Do not reply to the hacker or transfer any funds- it’s best to ignore any malicious threats or requests.
  7. Diversify your business and don’t rely on a singular social platform to push traffic or provide income (use multiple outlets, gather email addresses, use a website you own, etc).

It’s an icky and emotional situation that can make you feel violated, angry, or upset. I know it’s easier said than done, but stepping away from social media altogether during the process can also be helpful. Emmett & I ventured outside of cell and internet service and went camping. Knowing I couldn’t physically login, connect, or scroll was honestly very helpful. It’s a situation that is out of your hands and when lacking control, I found it easier to remove myself from technology altogether. While you’re in the interim, nothing can be done… it’s just a waiting game, so keep yourself occupied and try not to worry.

If Your Instagram Account Gets Hacked - roomfortuesday.comThe other point I really want to emphasize is diversifying your business. If you rely on social media for income, it’s incredibly important to have a presence in multiple places. Keep in mind- you don’t own your social media platforms. If your top account were to suddenly disappear, could you live without it? Let that sink in. Set up a website you own and have complete control over. Begin collecting emails for a subscription list. Use multiple social media platforms, rather than relying on a single outlet. I’m going to link all of the ways you can keep in touch with me, should this ever happen again…

Let’s keep advocating and helping one another. The bright spot throughout this entire process has been the wonderful people who took the time to message, email, connect, and offer to help. That means something to me. While social media can feel very trivial, many rely on it. It can be a wonderful place, a spot to hold memories, a way to connect, and an outlet to make a living, but it also doesn’t belong to us. When something like this happens, we’re not capable of fixing the problem on our own. It requires people who work at Meta. That was my biggest lesson. It took one malicious person to take my account away from me, and one kind person to regain it. To protect the privacy of those who helped me, I can’t share their information… but I’d definitely encourage you to ask around, put up stories on another account, ask a friend to post for you, and see if you can track down someone who works there and can help. That’s exactly what I did and it worked!

If Your Instagram Account Gets Hacked - roomfortuesday.comI know this isn’t the normal type of post I’d share, but I hope it’s helpful, insightful, or interesting at the very least. We’ve honestly had a rough May over here. Whew! Emmett is recovering from his surgery and I’m confident I’m getting closer to answers in regards to my own health, so it feels like we’re on the right path and things are looking up. Cheers to the weekend ahead! I’ve got friend time with my girlfriends on the agenda, gardening, and getting a little work done this week. All good things! I’ll bring you along (on Instagram of course, ha) if you want to see what I’m up to this weekend. I’ll also catch up on comments this weekend- so sorry I’m behind! I’m running on little sleep over here this week. Leave your questions for me below and I’ll get to them soon!

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  1. Good morning! How completely horrible. I saw Jordan’s post on the Tuesday Made IG and my stomach dropped. Although I certainly don’t fully comprehend the business side of Instagram, I can absolutely understand that a decade of hard work and dedication isn’t replaceable. A Portland-based influencer I follow had a similar experience several years ago. I added multifactor authorization then, but the notion that I don’t “own” my account, while obvious, really smacked me in the face. I’m from the generation that still occasionally questions technology (Ha!), so these instances strike a nerve. Given the caprice of Instagram’s algorithm, I have often pondered what my favorite business accounts might do “next”…or instead. What’s the talk in the industry? Oof. So many reasons I am not an entrepreneur. But! Yay for good humans! They still exist! (I’m choosing not to dwell on the fact that they must remain anonymous in order to do good.) I’m so, so relieved and pleased that your ordeal was *relatively* brief and positively resolved. I honestly can’t fathom your stress! Such a smart idea to remove yourself from the situation and unplug. As much enjoyment as I experience through technology (Hello, virtual friends!), I can’t deny the downsides. Fresh air, friends, and floofs save our sanity. Speaking of which, I hope you relish plenty of all three this weekend! What a May, indeed. I’m sending actual buckets of loving energy your way. And here’s hoping that Emmett’s recovery speeds up. Take good care. Happy Pizza Friday, friends! 💜💜💜💜💜💜💜

    1. It was such a stressful and discouraging situation… I hated not feeling in control of my own personal account and images (especially since it pertains to my small biz). It definitely made me pause to reevaluate how I can better connect with people and stay afloat, should it ever go away again. I think the industry is so reliant on social media, as that’s the easiest and most ubiquitous way to connect, market, and reach people these days. I wish there were a better alternative that was safe and more certain. Yay for good humans indeed! I don’t know what I would have done without them. I’m thankful it was brief because I know that’s not the case for most. Whew! Fresh air, floods, and friends to the rescue… turns out, that was exactly what I needed. Emmett is struggling, but I’m hoping he starts to feel better in the next few days. Poor guy.

  2. Oh my goodness – what a nerve-wracking experience for you. I’m so happy you are back to normal and can put this behind you. Thank you for sharing the lessons learned and tips. Continued best wishes for you and your husband’s health. Enjoy your weekend – you have earned it in spade!

    1. Most definitely, Marti! Thank you. I appreciate that and was happy to share. Hopefully it’s helpful for someone else. I hope your week is off to a good start!

  3. Good morning and thank you for sharing your experience, as well as how you resolved it. Having an account hacked is a nerve wracking experience- one that I am all too familiar with. I think it’s been about a year since my IG was hacked, and I still haven’t gotten it back. Mine happened in real time as I was on my phone. Hackers are quick- there’s no way to beat them. And you’re absolutely right, the violation and invasion of personal privacy is a sinking and frustrating feeling. I didn’t use mine for business, but felt absolutely sick over the fact that someone had access to pictures and videos of my children. Ugh. Knowing that all of that is still out there on the web, controlled by someone else, still stirs up anger. I remember also being extremely concerned about the number of large accounts I followed, and praying that the hacking of my own account wouldn’t extend to theirs. I’m so happy you were able to resolve it so quickly. Hurray for kind people!! Your tips are fantastic. What do you mean by authentication apps? You were smart to get out of dodge and unplug completely and with all that’s gone on this month I’m sure that break felt relieving. I’m sending tons of healing energy Emmett’s way, and a big cheers for the fact that you’re free of your shellfish allergy, as well as close to getting answers to the struggles you’ve faced. Happy pizza Friday! I’m shopping for flooring today and I’d love if ya’ll could cross your fingers for me. It’s been a tough road trying to find flooring- too many samples purchased that all look yellow or gray in our house- and I’m ready to be done with the search. Other than that, a relaxing weekend ahead! Cheers friends!

    1. It was definitely a nerve wracking experience. I hate that you know it all too well. So scary that it happened while you were on your phone, and you’re totally right- it’s always so fast that you can never outpace the situation. I can’t imagine having personal family photos on there (of kids)- I imagine that was a heavy, extremely violating feeling. I’m so sorry! As for the authentication apps, download Google Authenticator in the apps store (it’s free)- link it to all of your accounts. It generates new codes every 30 seconds and you have to have the codes to login. From now on, I’m always going to have those turned out for added security. Poor Emmett is still struggling post surgery- this was a rough one in comparison to his knee. I hope he’s back to himself soon. I’m SO excited to be food allergy free! I still have to go back in to test crab & lobster (though I’m probably fine with those now, too), but I feel good about it. It’s a crazy feeling not having to carry my epipen. Thanks again for your sharing your awesome recipe with me! I need to get better at cooking it now. I hope you were able to find some amazing flooring! Let me know if you need a second set of eyes :)

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I have read your blog for years and admire all that you and Emmett do and share. Best wishes for life and work ahead.

    1. Thank you so much, Kari! I truly appreciate you reading and following along all these years. I hope your week is off to a wonderful start!

  5. Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry Sarah!!! I got so stressed for you reading this 🙈. I’m glad you were able to get away and get your account back. Still you guys have had a really tough time recently! I really hope you are turning a corner and can have happier times ahead!

    1. Thanks, Amanda! It has definitely been tough lately, but we’re hanging in there :) Happier times ahead, indeed! Fingers crossed. Hope your week is off to a good start! xo

  6. So how do you speak to a person with Meta? My acct has been hacked and frozen. I can’t change the password because now I don’t know what it is. When I click on change password it just keeps saying my account was compromised. I’m so frustrated! 😢

    1. Hi Kristen! I’d recommend reaching out to friends to post, asking around to try to find someone who works there, and just networking. They don’t have a form, phone number, or email you can contact, so it requires a little work. It’s so frustrating. Im so sorry you’re dealing with that.