The day my Instagram got hacked – and the nightmare that has followed

- May 25, 2022 4 MIN READ
Instagram on phone with a silhouetted padlock beside

You never think it could happen to you or your business, but don’t be fooled. Instagram hackers are clever and businesses who have their social media accounts hacked have an extremely hard time getting them back, as Kiyomee Blends founder Kathy Kiedrzynski knows all too heartbreakingly well. Here, she shares her story as a warning to other business owners.

On 24th April I woke up to a business owner’s worst fear – my Kiyomee Blends business Instagram had been hacked!

Approximately four to five weeks prior, Kiyomee Blends applied via the correct avenue on Instagram to qualify for our verification badge. This would then show consumers that we are reputable and trustworthy amongst the already 43,000-strong following that we had.

On that morning I had a DM sitting in my Instagram folder. It appeared like any chat that I would have daily with my customers. I opened it and very excitedly read we had qualified for the badge we’d applied for.

I had no reason to believe this was fraudulent as this account had the Instagram logo, it was trademarked, had over 600 million followers to which big brands also followed. They had links within the message that would take me to live pages that also have been verified, all I had to do was refresh and re-sign in for my badge to appear.

Then it all went horribly wrong

Instagram 'this page is not available' message

With complete trust that this was in fact Instagram direct, I signed into my account and instead of my blue verification badge appearing, I got an email within seconds stating there was an unauthorised device logged into my account.

I instantly attempted to change my password, but these guys were already in the backend of my account and had changed the language and used two-factor authentication on me – and in that very moment, I watched my account be taken over by hackers.

Now I know some of you may be asking, ‘why didn’t I have the two-factor on?’. My answer is simply that you never think this could happen to you.

I was on the phone ASAP to technical support to assist me to regain access to my account. By lunchtime I had spoken to Facebook business concierge via message and phone call; they then followed up with a case number and feedback report, but I have had no correspondence from them since. I then reported, emailed and constantly called Instagram to no avail. I then began the facial recognition reports.

I have now done the facial recognition 72 times, around 60 of those responses from Instagram replied thanking me and they’d be in touch within one to two working days. I’m still waiting! The other replies from Instagram told me to simply unfollow the account and block the content if I don’t want to see it.

Instagram account held to ransom

Within ten hours of the hackers taking over, I received a message via WhatsApp from them, holding my account for ransom. They requested money and they’d return my account untouched. 24 hours passed and they told me if I don’t pay, they’ll sell the account to someone else or they would delete all the content.

By this point I was completely heartbroken – years of hard work and money invested in this page was all gone. These hackers have really affected our sales; as a small business, the hit was hard.

security login on phone

The ownership debate

For years now, and currently, we’ve run ads via Facebook. How they can say I don’t own the account is beyond me, as the ad accounts are owned by me and then the business accounts branch from there.

Another lesson throughout this experience as a brand is that Instagram doesn’t recognise me as the owner of the account because I don’t have photos of myself on the feed. When I started this range, it wasn’t about me; we share all the amazing customers that are experiencing our supplements, so there is no need to feature myself daily as I work behind the brand. I did have two photos introducing myself as the founder and at our birthday celebrations, but it wasn’t enough for Instagram to help me.

Almost a month later, I’m watching my account sitting there with these hackers’ name and the account has now been switched to private by them.

The fallout – and the importance of two-factor authentication

We have had to start all over again; countless hours of reaching out to followers letting them know what’s happened, ensuring they don’t interact with this account for their safety, and trying to get them to now follow another page in the support to rebuild our integrity and brand.

We lost years of content and now are left trying to fill in the gaps and recreate what’s been lost.

I cannot say this enough: whether your business is an online service or product-based, please ensure you share the founders for facial recognition purposes. Use two-factor authentication on all platforms and change your passwords regularly, because these guys are brutal and will go to any length to trick you and take over your accounts.

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