Oh, Instagram, you betrayed me

I may be HKHWR here, but on other social media sites, I am--or was--tthrash.

I had been "tthrash" on Instagram since about 2012. I had my site built up to nearly 950 posts and topped out at just over ~300 followers.

It was kind of my go-to on the road, as it was an easy place to share a quick picture, stamp a location and get the attention of interested friends and travelers. Its Stories feature was great for adding other details to posts, such as the local current weather, a relevant hashtag, etc. I was never looking for fame, but rather just a nice site to share pictures and stories of my interests, most of which were travel related, and some of which were connected to my affinity for craft beer. I used plenty of hashtags, but always tried writing them into my captions, rather than just stacking them all at the end. It even became a bit of a writing challenge to myself in fact.

Then, my account was hacked on Nov 1. I received an email from Instagram that my password was changed, and to let them know if I didn't change it. Damn tootin', I didn't change it. 

I tried getting my account back, only to be hit with emails that my username was changed and the email associated with my account was changed. What? How? I was again able to use the IG menus to declare I hadn't changed any of that stuff, but I did see a made-up user with all of my pictures. What was going on? Was someone able to see all my information? Read all of my messages? Were my friends' accounts now compromised?!

I reported all of this through the IG help menus, and even felt reassured with the "We have made it easier to get your account back" email, but it didn't stop the hacker(s) from repeatedly requesting my password from being reset, even with 2FA now enabled (shame on me for not having that on before all of this). The new email addresses were from Russia. I've never been to Russia. IG, in their infinite wisdom, couldn't tell the difference. This hacking had happened to at least two of my friends, and now it seemed to be my turn.

I was able to report that account for impersonation. I think the choices were that it was impersonating a celebrity, a friend, or ME. BINGO--yes, me! They were impersonating me, me, me. I want my account back, please!

So, a half dozen hours later, in the middle of the night, Instagram killed my account. I logged in through Facebook as I recall, and could see the notification thanking me for helping the Instagram community and that they agreed that user was violating their policies and terms of use, and indeed deemed it impersonation. 

But, they punished me. 

They didn't quarantine my account, or lock it for evaluation, or give me any opportunity to prove I was me. They just wiped it out. 

Six years of memories and six years of friendships unique to Instagram were all destroyed. I recognize that no one user is more important than Instagram as a whole, but their resolution tactics and support for the individual user are so weak. There's no phone support at all, which is almost understandable with the number of users on a free service. But, there's no remedial steps in resolving hacking issues!? 

When I did log on, it showed me with zero posts, zero followers, etc. Instagram was keen, though, on connecting me with other users. To them, it was my first day on Instagram. Yes, I could start over. I could start following others and scroll a Newsfeed to generate advertising revenue for them. No, I didn't want to yet; I didn't want to connect with anyone until sure my account was safe, and see if there was any way to get my data back.

Either way, the hackers seemed to turn their attention to me a few times a day, repeatedly trying to change my password, even though my account had no followers or posts. I deleted that new account, since the hackers were unrelenting.

It didn't take much googling to see the method used on me was used on thousands a few months ago. That's a lot of memories and friendships destroyed.

On the Instagram tab of my Facebook profile, some of my posts shared from the former to the latter are still visible.

Further, some of my Gram feed still shows on my Facebook IG tab, and similar data currently shows when I google my old user name. I also have all of the original pictures (not to mention other proof that I was at any of the locations in my posts), but I didn't get any opportunity to resolve this. Nope, I was just obliterated. If authorities wanted access to my old account, I'm sure it could be provided. So, doesn't that mean it is indeed stored somewhere? In turn, can Instagram really not reattach accounts to their proper users? Or don't they want to be bothered? I guess it's not affecting their advertising revenue yet, so resolving this issue can't be a priority.

Even now, weeks later, I cannot use my email or phone number to create a new account. I'm sure the hacker(s) will be able to create one using my old data before I can. Such a shame.

I'm pretty good at exporting my Facebook data every year of so. I had Twitter and Blogger done too, and thought I had the Gram likewise backed up, and planned to do all of them again at the end of the year. But, nope, never exported the Gram. I'm good at backing up pictures, and do have my pictures and stories all either saved to my phone or external drives, but I don't have the associated captions. If I ever get the chance, I may try rebuilding some of it--mostly because of the friendships there. Still, it's all rather frustrating.


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