Imagine you run a successful Instagram page with 37.000 followers and some scammers hack it. Rebel, better known as Queer Girl Straight Skates, is experiencing exactly that. Cyber thieves hacked her account, changed the name, removed her e-mail and phone number and have since then been threatening her to delete everything unless she pays them. (Always have a two-factor authentication on every profile!) Once you start googling you find a horribly high number of influencers and artists who have experienced this before. It appears that Instagram neither has the resources nor the will to help. This sucks in many ways. Not only because lots of people built up their business around the platform. But for Rebel this has been a more thought-provoking event. While Queer Girl Straight Skates might be a big part of her identity, it is not her.
Hi Rebel, your Instagram got hacked a few days ago and these people black mailing you to pay them otherwise they will delete your account, right? Please tell us what happened?
Long story short, I got an email from a company claiming to be @goodnightmacaroons they were looking to collab. I get emails like this all the time, and they provided a link for their Instagram so I could look at their products (all of this is super normal). However, when I clicked on the link, in order to see the Instagram page I had to log in (I now know this is not normal). But I was at a skate and shop vending event, and so I was half paying attention and clicked it. Within two minutes of me clicking it, unknowingly my Instagram handle was changed, the email that I had attached to my Instagram was changed, and my phone number was removed. Unfortunately, whoever hacked me knew what they were doing. By the time the event was over and I checked my phone again, it was too late to notify Instagram that the change in email or username was not from me. Instagram let me know that my username had changed from @queergirlstraightskates to @queergirlstraikhjkhjk and my username has continued to change to various numbers and letters every few hours. Shortly afterward I received emails from the hacker that threatened me that they would be deleting all my photos and my account if I did not meet their demands – emails from a man named “Jon MacKenzie” and “Hack Hacks”. I have not responded to them, but they have continued to send demanding emails my direction. As soon as this happened I tried to go through the reporting mechanism that Instagram has available, which is to let them know that your account has been hacked, but there was a glitch in the system where once I finished the report, the keyboard on my iPhone wouldn’t go down in order to let me hit the submit button (talk about frustrating). So, I went every other imaginable route. I emailed the only support email Instagram has only to be informed that was not a functioning route to contact Instagram. I had many of my follower submit “something’s not working” reports on Instagram. I have submitted requests to their board that you submit to when you have been hacked or you’re having an issue, but have not received a response. They have one phone number that leads you to an automated machine that sends you back into the loop of self-help webpages which accomplish nothing when you are in a situation like mine. It boggles my mind that Instagram has such an incompetent reporting system when they have close to a billion users. Two days of hearing absolutely nothing back from Instagram, and by some miracle I was able to submit my report and send them a picture of myself with a number to verify my identity. However, at the same time that they sent me an email asking me to verify my identity they also sent me a fairly shady message in which they revealed that my account had been deleted. It looked like this:
I have not yet heard from Instagram regarding the verification of my identity. I am devastated. Instagram being gone for me means two years of hard work and memories that have just – poof – been deleted in a matter of minutes. Instagram is a crucial tool that I use in my branding for my YouTube, and in directing sales to my Etsy, much less collaboration deals that help pay my bills.
Have you thought for a minute to pay the people who hacked your account?
No, I did not even consider paying them because I don’t trust them in the slightest. How am I supposed to be guaranteed that you are actually going to be delivering my account back to me after I give you money? You already stole my account, what’s to say you have any morals whatsoever to not lie to me? And I know that Instagram clearly doesn’t have my back, so, in short, no.
Would you say your Instagram presence was or is essential to you and your growth respectively for connecting with your fans and friends?
My Instagram presence was/is absolutely essential to me. It is the way that I have been connecting with people throughout the pandemic, I use it to direct people to my YouTube channel, which is my business, and I also use it to send people to my Etsy. When my Instagram disappeared, I not only felt alone in the midst of a quarantine, but at a loss for money that helps support me in an unstable economy and a fear that I wouldn’t be able to access those memories again.
Did you have a two-factor authentication?
Unfortunately, I have two-factor authentication on all of my emails, particularly the one for my YouTube channel. I didn’t know until this event that two-factor authentication was available for Instagram. I have it on my new/hopefully temporary Instagram.
You probably made no backup of all your posts?
I do not have a backup of my posts.
There are so many help pages on the internet with tips on how to fix your profile once it gets hacked. What did you try so far? Was there anything helpful?
I feel like I am an expert on everything the internet has to say about getting your Instagram back. Unfortunately, my hackers are especially effective at what they are doing. So close to none of those articles are helpful. Most say that if a person is in my position then you should give up and create a new Instagram. Many people say that if you make enough stink Instagram will fix it just to quiet you down. I don’t know anymore. I have spent hours fighting on the internet to try and get my account back. It looks pretty hopeless from my perspective.
In the past months several influencers have been hacked. It appears that Instagram is no big help in many cases. What makes you most angry about their customer service?
Instagram acts as though they are on our side. They create a medium in which we can run our entire businesses on their site, they communicate with influencers and ask our opinions, they advertise themselves as if they are a business for their users. However, this is clearly not true. The leadership at Instagram has acknowledged in tweets that they do not have a good enough system to deal with hacking, and if this happens all the time, why is this not a larger focus? It angers me because Instagram makes lots of money off of advertising to us, but they cannot even be bothered to make sure that the user is taken care of in matters of hacking, even when they know it exists and is getting worse. Instagram is more concerned with stealing Tik Tok’s concept in order to generate more time spent on the app and thus more profit than it is with making sure its dedicated users are happy.
You created a new account @queergirlstraightskate for now. Are you planning to build it from new or will you upload old posts again?
My hope is that I will be able to resecure the account @queergirlstraightskates in the future, even if it is starting back at the beginning with the name as a new account. Queer Girl Straight Skates is the name of my brand, and having that is very important to me. I’m taking this opportunity and will be building new content. I have a lot of amazing things that are happening soon in the skate world and creatively, and hopefully as I continue to be myself and create the content that I have been this whole time, people will see me as what I’ve always tried to be on the internet: a person who cares for other skaters, and wants to set an example. I realize I kinda got off tangent with that one, but I will probably integrate some of my old content sprinkled in, but in reality, my Instagram documented me learning how to skate completely, so to me it feels right to just move forward, make new memories, and hope that Instagram can get their shit together.
Sieh dir diesen Beitrag auf Instagram an
Today was beautiful at the Shop and Skate- it was SO amazing seeing so many people and it was my first time vendoring! Which was awesome. Then... my Instagram got hacked. So after a very stressful afternoon I am here with a new Instagram and hopefully I will get my old Instagram back. I’m trying so hard and it’s incredibly annoying and I wish that all my memories weren’t gone. I got a few ransom emails and I have tried to submit a petition to Instagram. So that’s where we’re at. Worst case scenario, this is my new account and I rebuild memories and connections here. ✨If you want to see more roller skating, tutorials, reviews and general skate vids, subscribe to my YouTube channel, link in the bio!✨
What lesson did you learn from this incident? What will you do different in the future?
Oh man, I have learned so much. The first is that if you are going to be branding yourself and creating something that you hope to continue to be a business for you in the future, not to host it on a site that doesn’t care to acknowledge when you have a problem. I am going to start working on my own website and developing that as my main hub for my content/portal to other projects I’m working on. I have learned not to trust anything that you read online. Think like 200x’s before you click on anything, and most of all, even if social media is a big part of your business and your identity, social media is NOT YOU. If all social media was gone tomorrow, you would still continue living, and man is it important to ensure that you have a sense of who you are without all of it. I’m always trying to work on myself and become better, and this has shown me some things that I definitely need to work on when it comes to identity and the power that I give a social media to have over me.
Interview by Marta Popowska
Photos and screenshots provided by Queer Girl Straight Skates