It rained on Saturday. I visited a friend. I ate a pizza.
A plain old Saturday kind of day. Except for this …
On Saturday my Instagram account was hijacked by a Russian bot and I can’t get it back.
Because angry people like me turn to the Internet to find support when Big Tech firms ignore them, I am writing this for those other victims.
That I was hijacked by a Russian bot is ironic, because when I’m not writing baseball, I can sometimes be found consulting for a good government organization in Washington that is fighting to get our government to pay attention to, and deal with, the army of Russian bots meddling in our elections and affairs.
That Instagram, owned by Facebook, provided me with no support or useful help, and put the burden on me to fix a problem that they created, makes me angrier at them than I am at the Russian bot.
Here’s how it happened.
On Saturday afternoon, Instagram sent me an email saying that my Instagram password had been reset. “If you didn’t make this change – blah, blah, blah – ‘click here.’”
In the five minutes – five minutes – from the time Instagram sent me the email and I responded, my account was completely hijacked. My password was changed, my user name changed, my email contact address changed.
Once those things were changed, I was locked out. Completely.
It was completely out of my control. It is still completely out of my control
It was still “me” up there. My pic. My witty little profile story. My followers, just a handful of friends, really.
Just one post – a photo of my cat Mookie.
My account, along with that lone photo of my faithful cat Mookie, is now controlled by this guy:
I have spent hours trying to alert Instagram that my account was hijacked. I have reported that my likeness is being impersonated. Instagram’s unhelpful “Help” function says I need to file forms and upload a photo of a government ID to prove I am who I am, but when I try to find the forms, I end up in a Catch 22 circle of “click here” that takes me to another “click here” that takes me back to the original “click here.” When I’m on my computer, I’m told the form is on the app. When I’m on the app, I’m told to try to upload things via my computer.
Their circular unhelpful suggestions come with stern motherly nagging that I should have set a stronger password. I DID HAVE A STRONG PASSWORD! Stop trying to make this MY fault.
It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating.
Oh, and how do I know it’s a Russian bot?
Because, apparently, I’m smarter than Instagram.
I tried to change kinnear’s new password. (Turn about’s fair play, you Russian bot jerk. I’m going to try to hijack you.)
I failed, of course, but when I did, Instagram alerted me that a password reset had been sent to the bot that stole my account:
The email address they shared was partially redacted. But, I saw all I needed to see. And, you can see it, too. Can’t you?
Russia, I see you!
What’s more? There are plenty of hijacked “kinnear” accounts on Instagram.
They all look like basically the same:
kinnear [underscore] [three digit number] [double underscore] [random name]
I’m no detective, but a bunch of Instagram users who all have weirdly similar names, but have nothing else in common, sure looks fishy to me.
Apparently, Instagram doesn’t think so.
Hey, my Instagram account is nothing. It’s just 30-some friends. I’ve alerted them and asked them to block the no-longer-me account and report it. Four actually have. The rest, I’m afraid, didn’t bother and are now following a Russian bot.
Maybe Congress, and Facebook/Instagram, and Twitter, and Google will finally deal with the enormous growing-bigger-every-day Russian meddling problem they have on their hands.
On a smaller scale, how about this? Dear Instagram, If someone changes their password, put a temporary “hold” on making other account changes that would lock out a real user, including changing the username and the email address the account is linked to. If there was a 24-hour hold, or even a one-hour hold, after a password change, I would have been able to get in and get my account back before that jerk-bot kinnear made it impossible.
(It’s a good idea and you’re welcome, Instagram. Clearly, I have to do your work for you.)
The hell with this. I’m swearing off Instagram. So is ever-faithful Mookie.
“Instagram Sucks.” — Mookie the Cat
If Instagram doesn’t want to help me and Mookie, let the Russian bots have the damn thing.
So sorry this happened to you, and thank you for the warning.
Thanks, Perry … yes, I posted this to vent, but also to warn people and support anyone who finds my post who was similarly hijacked by a bot. The Russian bot made me mad. But, Instagram has made me even madder.
So much for being able to count on huge social media companies to take responsibility for the problems their users increasingly experience. At least you can leave Instagram. Facebook doesn’t allow users to completely cancel their accounts.
Actually Facebook (and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook) does allow a permanent deletion of an account. They also have a soft deletion option for people who might want to just leave for awhile, but who don’t want to delete all the content they’ve amassed. But, yes, you can completely deep-six your account … and everything just disappears. (At least in theory, everything disappears.)
Thanks for the info. I’ll tell my sister to try again. When she tried to close her account a few years ago she was told she could delete entries but she could not completely delete the account.
Ditto Mookie the Cat (and you) – sorry for all your frustration!
Thank you, Lisa … and Mookie says “thank you” too in his cat sort of way. :)
So sorry about you getting hacked. We understand what it feels like to be “invaded” and getting no help. Tony was physically mugged & robbed of his camera stuff. Fortunately, he was ok. So blogging is good to let others know your plight. Thank you for sharing your experience.
Oh my! I feel a little violated by Instagram and the Russian bot, but nothing compared to what you have gone through. I hope you both are doing ok. Mostly I’m just in a bad mood and it felt good to vent — and to let other people who are disregarded by Instagram/Facebook, etc, that they are not alone.
You might consider changing/strengthening your Facebook password given the fact that they own Instagram and you were hacked there. I had a lengthy mixup with Facebook last year and ended up deleting all of my accounts across all my social media—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram.
I do miss seeing what some of my friends are up to, but I don’t miss the time-suck and have re-connected with them on my blog and through email and phone calls. You know, the old-fashioned way. Good luck with your situation.
Excellent idea … I have strengthened Facebook per your suggestion. Thanks!
Omg, Jackie. I feel you. I haven’t been on instagram in a while and I don’t miss it. I see why. I’m thinking of shutting down my instagram account all together just because of reasons like this.
That was the funny thing … I hardly used Instagram except to see what other people were posting. So, the Russian bot got me, but really didn’t get much. I’m just in a bad mood about it!
Well that suckity suck suck sucks. I know it took us weeks to shut down all sorts of fraud accounts someone created of my mom in FB. We took it all down and restarted her a year later…and boom all of her pictures etc we were told would come back, did not. That was the great loss to her in all this. So sorry, but a steep learning curve in how some companies really operate.
The ironic thing is that I’m working with an organization on this very issue — protecting ourselves and our democracy from foreign influence and meddling. Wouldn’t you know it … I’m now living proof that the Russian meddling continues and clearly is not getting any better.
I “liked” this but in reality it’s more like I “ARGHHH!” this. … So sorry this vile chicanery has ensnared you and Mookie.
Mookie doesn’t seem to be as steamed about this hijacking as I was — and continue to be. He’s much more laid back than me, clearly.
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Turn on Two-Factor Authentication immediately!
Yeah Instagram sucks !!! The same thing happened to me but I lost 7 years of posts (memories from all my travels and everything ).. 825 posts ! And about 1500 followers (connections I’ve made in all my travels to some Russian bot and despite my serval re-edited for help Instagram had done not a single thing to help me recover my acount
Yeah Instagram sucks !!! The same thing happened to me but I lost 7 years of posts (memories from all my travels and everything ).. 825 posts ! And about 1500 followers (connections I’ve made in all my travels )to some Russian bot and despite my several requests for help Instagram had done not a single thing to help me recover my acount
Hi Nadia, A Russian bot got hold of my account about 6 weeks ago as well. YESTERDAY I finally got my account back, but I probably could have gotten it back a little sooner. First, check with your friends if your account is still up. If so, check out this site: https://www.mirror.co.uk/tech/instagram-account-stolen-tracked-down-12941513
As well as my post (Aug 7th date) on this site for help: http://becboop.com/2017/08/instagram-hacked-recovered-account/