With reports of Instagram hacking seemingly increasing, Carter-Ruck has represented a British artist to recover and protect his Instagram account after it was hacked.  Shortly prior to the hack, the client reached a follower count of over 27,000, making him eligible for a verified account. He applied to Instagram for verification. Shortly afterwards the hacking occurred. This seems to be a common theme in Instagram hacking cases: hackers are aware of the follower threshold for verification and often target accounts which have recently passed the threshold, in the knowledge of how important these verified accounts are for business owners.

There are two reasons that hackers will target such accounts. Firstly, individuals looking to turn their Instagram accounts into verified accounts are generally using their Instagram for business purposes and the hackers are aware that such individuals will therefore be more susceptible to threats to their account.

Secondly, accounts which have applied to become verified are easy to target with messages on the Instagram platform which purport to be from Instagram, because the account holders are expecting a response from Instagram on their verification application.
Our client was vulnerable on both these counts. He was sent a message from an account with approximately 29,000 followers and the word “Instagram” in its username, which asked him to click on the link to progress his verification application. This link tricked him into passing his login details to the hacker, and he was subsequently locked out of his account. The email address and password associated with his account had been changed and the usual recovery functions made available by Instagram were not working.

Shortly after this, our client was contacted via WhatsApp by an individual identifying themselves as the hacker, offering to return our client’s access to his account in return for a very substantial sum, within 24 hours. The hacker informed our client that if he refused to send this sum or did not pay in time, then his account would be permanently deleted. Initially, it was clear that our client’s account was still online but the username had been changed as well as the login and recovery details. Then, the account disappeared completely.

At this point, our client was understandably extremely concerned; an Instagram account which he had spent years building to publicise his work and had gained a significant and valuable following was suddenly gone. Once an Instagram account has been deleted, Instagram do not have an automatic recovery process in place. Instagram makes it clear that once an account has been deleted, the account data will not be retained for more than 30 days, and may not even be kept that long. Once the data associated with an account has been deleted, the account cannot be salvaged. This means it is necessary to act urgently if your account has been deleted without your consent. We were able to help by contacting Facebook (now Meta) and our client’s data was protected and his Instagram account was fully recovered, along with all posts, messages and followers.

The hacking of Instagram accounts is, unfortunately, becoming more prevalent. Hackers understand the value of the curated advert that is an Instagram profile, and the hard work that goes into building a loyal follower base. They prey upon this seeking to blackmail small business owners.

How we can help you

If you need advice on a similar problem and need experienced lawyers to prepare and implement a proper response plan get in touch with Guy Martin or Persephone Bridgman Baker.

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