Updated: Feb 21, 2022
[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
There are 1.386 billion (yes, billion) people using Instagram. Say what you want about the pitfalls or pro/cons of social media, but we're all living in the digital age whether we want to or not. I don't have a huge presence on the app, but I use it to document my running, share poetry, and share this blog. I've had my account since 2015, so there's a lot of shit on there that I'd like to keep.
Last week, I clicked a thing I shouldn't have clicked and closed my phone. A while later, I opened the app and it showed that I was logged out. I tried to log back in but my credentials weren't working. I checked my email only to find that a hacker had changed the email, password, and phone number associated with my account. Usually Instagram sends an email asking if you've changed your login info with an option to revert it but unfortunately, the link to revert the changes was corrupt or broken or whatever. Messages from friends started pouring in, "Sarah, I think you've been hacked," they said. And they were right. Someone was trying to scam people into...I don't know, buying bitcoin? It was an obvious scam, but whoever hacked me pushed content out through my stories, my page, and direct messages (I do apologize for the spam).
There is a series of steps you can take if your account has been compromised (read more about those steps here). I went through all the steps to no avail. My app kept shutting down, the verification codes weren't working, and I grew increasingly frustrated. I scoured the internet looking for a solution and found nothing. I couldn't figure out why the steps outlined in the help center weren't working, or why the app kept crashing. I began coming to terms with losing all my photos and content when I decided to reach out to a good friend who works in cyber security. His solution was almost too simple.
"The hacker probably planted a bug in your app or your phone that disrupted it's functions enough so that the support option isn't working. Delete the app from your phone, then back up your information and do a hard reset."
That was it. Once I uninstalled the app, I was able to go through the support forms, submit a selfie video, and have my account restored in less than two business days. Luckily, the hacker didn't delete anything from my page and hopefully no one fell for his very obvious scam. I also didn't have two factor authentication set up for my account, so I was an easy target. After regaining access, I changed my passwords and set up more rigorous privacy measures.
To recap: If your Instagram account has been hacked, the contact information changed, and the support features are not working, here's what to do.
Uninstall the app.
Restart your phone.
Back up your data.
Do a hard reset (try just uninstalling the app first).
Go through the steps outlined in the Instagram help center. Part of these steps involves taking a selfie video to verify your identity via facial recognition.
Wait 1-2 business days to hear back. At this point, you should hear back from Instagram with either a link to login or a message stating that your identity couldn't be verified. Luckily I didn't have to deal with that and mine was verified right away.
This process might work without doing the reset to your phone; you just have to clear whatever bug was planted in your phone or app. If you don't have any photos of yourself on your Instagram page, the verification process might take longer.