EXCLUSIVE: This lady’s Instagram account hack story should get all users worried
There are new updates that have been added at the bottom of the story…
It was a Monday afternoon late last month when Mrs Pauline Duncan accessed her Instagram account. After performing her regular social media chores, she logged out. Then again at around 4PM in the evening she tried logging in. But to her surprise, she couldn’t.
Her account didn’t exist, it appeared. Yes, she no longer had an Instagram account.
As there was no other way to report this incident, she created a new Instagram account. Before reporting the matter to the Facebook owned company, she decided to follow family members and close friends again.
It’s during this process, she noticed something disturbing. She observed her original account was still active with all her pictures, followers and the following data intact. But the username was different.
Surprised on how could this happen? Imagine what Mrs Pauline would have felt.
For a very large number of people out there, social media is like a second home. Their Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram account is their identity in the virtual world. It’s the place where they share their memories, get in touch with their loved ones, and feel connected with others regardless of wherever they are.
That’s why losing a social media account to hackers is a nightmare as it has real and nasty consequences. Sadly, that’s what happened with Pauline. Yes, her account was hacked. And someone was now impersonating her.
So what did she do next?
She reported the matter to the company. And hence began a complex and mind exhausting journey, with Instagram first saying it could be someone with a similar name. When Mrs Pauline – an Orkney islands, Scotland resident – pointed out how could they have same friends, followers, and even children, the Instagram support asked them to send pictures of their children holding IDs.
She detailed her entire ordeal on a piece of paper, which she has since shared on her Instagram and Twitter accounts.
For everyone with an Intagram account beware they don't care about your privacy or security. Below is my experiance. #MarkZuckerberg #Instagram #instagramers #skynews #bbcnews #thelastleg Please read and share. They will only do something if it is loud enough pic.twitter.com/UBTvCds9tk
— Pauline Duncan (@bethleyja) January 29, 2019
See image below (click/tap to view full size):
Here’s Instagram acknowledging her complaint and denying any wrongdoing with her account:
Has the matter been resolved?
Sadly no. I got in touch with Mrs Pauline over email late last week to know more details, she shared with me some email exchanges she had with the Instagram support. Here’s an excerpt from one of her emails:
I found out the username of the impersonator by checking the followers of my daughters account.There I found my exact account but it has a new username and I am unable to access it. They are still saying they are me and using my name, so anyone would think it is me with a new username.
To which Instagram replied by asking the following details:
Thanks for your response. Unfortunately, we still can’t confirm that you’re children are old enough to use Instagram. To confirm that you’re children are at least 13 years old, please reply to this email with a photo or scan of at least one ID
Mrs Pauline confirmed to me she didn’t send details related to her children. Here’s what she said:
No I did not, I sent them the email saying that it had nothing to with my daughter’s age. It was my account and my personal pictures
Presumably because of Mrs Pauline’s refusal to share the asked-for information, the account recovery process has been stalled. Meanwhile, the alleged hacker has made the original account private.
The following line Mrs Pauline wrote in one of her emails to Instagram sums up her situation:
I am happy for that account to be closed but I would like my photos as they are mine and of my children
Instagram hacks a widespread problem
Mrs Pauline’s story is just a drop in the ocean of Instagram hacks. Recently, Matt Boddy of Naked Security published a story on Instagram hacks where-in he said many social media accounts get hacked through ‘credential stuffing’ technique.
Credential stuffing is when a hacker takes passwords from the data breach of Company A to login to a web app of Company B
He also notes how these hijacked accounts are then used by a cybercriminal to exploit people’s sexual desires (look at the profile pic of Mrs Pauline’s hacked account – seems like this case is going the same way as well).
Recently, Mashable also ran a story on Instagram hacks, describing the whole process of reporting and regaining Instagram accounts “often a long, frustrating process.” Like ours, their coverage also details individual experiences of hacking victims.
So this brings us to the question that what’s the way out for affected users. Well, as MotherBoard highlighted recently, many users have taken to unofficial channels (other hackers to be precise) to recover their lost account.
Instagram has been so unhelpful for a number of users that they’ve had to turn to third-party social media experts for help re-gaining access to their own accounts. Most of the victims Motherboard spoke to ended up getting help from someone who goes by Juan Diego J Pelaez, a Colombian who bills himself as an Instagram expert. Palaez also suggested to Motherboard that he has engaged in hacking in order to help people
Guess that’s the only way open for Mrs Pauline at the moment.
Update 1 (Feb 05)
Since Mrs Pauline’s original account has been made private now, we reached out to her to know if she can provide us screenshots of that account as she is a follower. She responded with the following images that show her daughter’s image on top of the image stack on that account:
What more, she also shared screenshots of email notifications she has been getting from Instagram warning about unauthorized access to the original account:
This indicates the hacker still hasn’t changed the email address.
PiunikaWeb is a unique initiative that mainly focuses on investigative journalism. This means we do a lot of hard work to come up with news stories that are either ‘exclusive,’ ‘breaking,’ or ‘curated’ in nature. Perhaps that’s the reason our work has been picked by the likes of Forbes, Foxnews, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Engadget, The Verge, Macrumors, and more. Do take a tour of our website to get a feel of our work. And if you like what we do, stay connected with us on Twitter (@PiunikaWeb) and other social media channels to receive timely updates on stories we publish.