“My Instagram was hacked!” is a guest post by Portland blogger and photographer Aubrie LeGault. Read on to find out what happened to Aubrie when she found out her Instagram was hacked, the steps she took to address the matter, and how she ultimately chose to deal with someone taking over her Instagram handle. After reading hop on over to check out her great Photography Website and Portland Food Photography Blog.
You’ve been hacked!
I was in the middle of making lunch when I received a text from a friend that said “I think your Instagram account has been hacked.” Honestly, my gut reaction wasn’t impressive, I barely thought anything of it. I assumed something as simple as changing my password would fix the problem. So I started eating lunch and then a few more texts came in stating the same thing. One text had a photo of my IG account and that’s when I finally had the appropriate reaction…”Crap!” (I might have used another word.) It wasn’t that the new photos were inappropriate. It was what I found after the 5-10 inappropriate images…nothing… as in all of my photos were missing. My photos were gone and that’s what scared me. On top of my photos missing and the inappropriate photos that were in their place, there was also a link for “free sex” in my bio. I was mortified!
There is no phone number listed for Instagram customer service. Which, yes, makes sense, it’s a free app that about 300 million other people use. Could you imagine the phone calls they would receive? Still, it’s never an easy process when you have to do everything via email.
The first thing I did was ask to reset my password. I received the email to do so, but I didn’t follow through. I thought that if I simply changed the password, I would login and my account would keep the hacked photos and my photos would be forever lost in cyberspace. I decided to not change my password, instead I went to Instagram’s website and filled out the “I’ve been hacked” form. (Instagram > Support > Privacy on Instagram > Report Something > I think my account has been hacked). It asks if you can login, which I could not, and so I clicked on “report it to us.” It asks you a series of questions, like who’s account is it?, did you give anyone your password? and are their photos of you on the account?.
I was surprised that I received an email response right away. However, it was merely just confirming that I sent the report in. The email asked for my login email address and information on the hack. I responded with my email login and gave as much information on the hack as possible. Twenty-four hours later I received this response: “At this time, we can’t give you access to this account or take any further action on it. Protecting the privacy of the people who use Instagram is very important to us. That’s why we ask that you provide the signup email of the account. Without receiving the signup email we can’t verify that the account belongs to you. Once you provide the correct signup email, we can continue to assist you.” So…I tried again. Stating that I gave them the login email the first time, it’s the only email address I have and IT IS the login email. I waited… no response. I emailed them again… no response.
At this point, I notice that my account has been disabled. The hacker’s photos are gone, the account is gone. So, I accept the fact that my photos and followers are gone and that I will have to start over. I return to my Instagram app to start a new account, using the same email address. That didn’t work. Even though the @aubrielegault account was disabled, apparently the email address was still in use. So I created another email address for the sole purpose of starting a new feed. The email address was accepted but I could not use @aubrielegault as my Instagram name. I emailed Instagram one last time, explaining my situation, in hopes that I could at least get the name @aubrielegault back. …No response.
A Business Decision
For me, Instagram has slowly become more about business than posting random photos I snapped with my iPhone. I look at Instagram as an extension of my photography work, a way for more people to see my photos and perhaps (if they are looking to hire) click on the link in my profile.
Before I was hacked, I was beating my head against a wall, trying to decide how to streamline the look of my Instagram feed. Honestly, it’s purely a visual thing. It’s the photographer inside of me that wants everything to visually look appealing and focused. I would scroll through feeds like @the_bojon_gourmet, @gatherandfeast and @local_milk and I was mesmerized by how streamlined and gorgeous their feeds were. Deep down, I wanted that. I started off by deleting all photos that were not related to food photography. (Yes, it was painful. I’m pretty sure my mother cried too.) Food photography was officially my theme. After deleting all those photos, my feed still did not look clean and precise like I envisioned.
And then I was hacked. Yes, I was sad that I lost all my photos. I was bummed that I lost all my followers. But, in the back of my head, I couldn’t help to think “this is my chance, to start over, and produce the feed I envisioned.” I had to make a decision- do I fight for @aubrielegault or do I change my name and my entire feed and start over? I chatted with a few people, mainly about my IG name, and they all told me that I should go with a name that represented my food photography/blog. I took their advice and my new Instagram feed is now @PDXFoodPhotos. (My food photography blog is PDX Food Photographer … that name was already taken, so I went with the second best option.) I decided on a name and I am going with a more streamlined means of posting my photos. Whether or not that was the correct business decision… I guess I’ll have to wait and find out.
If you enjoy yummy food photos, Portland food events or food photography, I invite you to come follow my new feed! https://www.instagram.com/pdxfoodphotos/
A Personal Note
First, please know, that I do not think everyone has to use Instagram for business. It just happens to be the route I am taking. Maybe someday I will get @aubrielegault back and I will be able to post fun photos of my wonderful dog and amazing hikes. I hope that happens, because that is the true meaning of Instagram- to instantly post fun photos and share it with the world.
Second, in my opinion, if you are using your IG feed as a means to reach clients or share your portfolio, I hope that you don’t bank everything on that silly little feed. What I mean, is that my food photography business did not take a hit when I was hacked. Portland Monthly’s editor didn’t even notice, I was still invited to a few food events and I booked a few photo shoots while this was all going on. I am still fairly new to the food photography world, so take my advice with a grain of salt. But, If there is one thing I learned from this, your hard work and your character don’t shine within an Instagram feed and that comes first. Your Instagram account should merely be a secondary portfolio.
And last, but certainly the most important, I want to thank the community that I work with. Friends, fellow bloggers and photographers were very supportive and many went out of their way to announce my new feed to their followers. The hashtag #communitynotcompeition (thank you @merecdavison) really says what social media is all about. There are enough restaurants and food events to go around, there are enough clients and there are endless topics to blog about, that we do not have to compete, we can simply support one another.