Hacked!!

Hacked! Yes. Someone hacked into my Instagram account. June 21, longest day, but I found it even longer! Imagine, I have been active on social media at least since 2016 or maybe 2014. I have heard of email accounts being hacked. But yesterday I got the shock of my life when my Instagram account was hacked.

How did I come to know of the hacking? I was happily engrossed in a novel (on summer vacation) when my daughter came to tell me that a message from her friend said she thought my Instagram account had been hacked. I reached for my iPhone and found my Instagram was not accessible! I ran to open my laptop and then came the avalanche of messages and calls on WhatsApp.

Later my daughter send me this article that talks about a small family business Instagram account being hacked. ‘Bitcoin Instagram hacker robs BC jeweler of portfolio and client base’. See link. So watch out! Luckily, mine is only a fun account, no business here and very few followers!

How did this happen? Someone who appeared like a family person, a normal human being from her Instagram posts, was messaging me. After a few friendly messages she asked me if I was interested in bitcoin. When I said no, she asked why. I said ‘not interested’. Then she changed track and said she had a clothes line website and would I like to see that? I said I did not buy clothes online, but thought there was no harm in looking at it. She said she would send me a link and I was NOT to click on the link. That made me confident as I did not need to click on the link. But that was the trap. She said take a screenshot of the link and send it to her on Instagram messages. I thought what harm could that do? So I took a screenshot, sent it, and Bingo! I was hacked! My Instagram account was hacked!

First thing I did was to ask my student, who alerted me, and my University communication team, to put out a message that my Instagram had been hacked. This was as students were reporting that series of messages were going out from my account. One young one put out this message on my behalf: Thank you.

She, (now I am not even sure that she was a she, or was it an It, a BOT) almost immediately posted that I had invested some dollars in bitcoin and had gained a huge profit. This was the post seen by my daughter’s friend and later by all my followers on Instagram. But it did not stop there, with a simple post. She/it posted a story on Instagram about my investment in bitcoin and the profits I earned.

Next, she/it sent out a simple message: ‘have you invest in bitcoin before?’ Even the English was not right! It encouraged you to contact one ray_jonny. It was only if someone engaged with it did the conversation go forward as one of my friends did out of curiosity.

Fishing (phishing) Message

One friend who contacted me said he was suspicious as soon as he saw the massive profit! No one according to him gets that kind of profit today! But I guess this ‘fishing’ (phishing) is really meant for gullible fools! Not for intelligent students/alums from my university!

Then began the search to retrieve my Instagram. The first mistake I made was to remove the Instagram icon from my iPhone. I should have deleted the account. But this way it remained on the iPhone setting and would not let me uninstall or reinstall the Instagram App. The messages were coming in fast from my students and friends. One said that Instagram had an email account and I could report the hack. But I could not find any email id. After clicking around for some time on the Instagram site, an email was generated from Instagram which said that someone had logged into my email account.

It was at the back of my mind to simply delete the account and get rid of it. But my friends said that if I did not get it back, it might be used continuously by the She/It/Bot to send out more messages and mislead people. And so began the struggle to retrieve the account.

The sequence of events are a blur now, but I think I was able to send a message to Instagram that my account was hacked. Mercifully Instagram reacted very fast, unlike the complaints I am seeing on the web. They sent me a mail asking me if there was a profile picture on my Instagram. I was sent a link to take a video of my face, profile and submit to them. It said they would get back after verification in 3-4 days. But they came back within an hour with a link to renew my password. Voila! There was my Instagram, back with all my photos and uploads. Only the username had changed with 12 added at the end. No matter, at least my Instagram was back. But only on my laptop.

Next was the real struggle to get Instagram back on my iPhone. This was perhaps as the icon was deleted but the account remained on my Settings. Various friends gave me instructions on what to do. On how to delete Instagram from the settings to enable reinstalling the App.

Nothing seemed to work. It took all of 24 hours of struggle with various combinations of Instagram downloads and Facebook links to finally crack it. I had to put in a two stage authentication App. I think that did the trick. So here I am back on Instagram on iPhone as unnijeemol12!! Why 12? No matter!

I guess I am a little wiser! The confidence balloon that ‘nothing can happen to my accounts’ is deflated! To all my readers and myself, don’t do foolish things like following instructions from strangers on social media.

Is this fishing (phishing) expedition unique to Instagram? I have had many ‘male’ (perhaps Bots, after this experience) pester me through message on Instagram! But never on the other social media sites! My self-preservation instinct saved me from those ‘male bots’. Stay safe my friends! And do share this post and experience with all your friends.

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