Whether you have many followers or not, your Instagram account can, at some point, become a target of hackers. In fact, hacking is so common that most social media users have experienced it at least once to some degree.
And while some hackers are relatively harmless, others can take over your account, hold it for ransom, or even entirely delete it. In either case, you need to take action as soon as possible to kick the hacker out of your account and regain control.
Three Levels of Hacking
Not all hackers operate in the same way, so their attacks won’t be exactly the same either. Read on to find out what some of the most common hacking techniques are, as well as how to efficiently respond to them and save your account.
Level 1: Changing Your Password
The first step every hacker will take after breaking into your account is changing your password to lock you out. Although this requires immediate attention, it’s actually the best-case scenario, as recovering your account is fairly easy and doesn’t involve contacting support.
If you receive a password reset email that you didn’t request, all you have to do is click on the Revert These Changes button in the email. Remember to change your old password afterward to ensure the hacker stays out of your account.
If you discover that you’re logged out from your account and can’t access it using your password, you’ve likely been hacked. Click on Get help logging in (Android) or Forgot password? (iOS) to request a login link. This link will be sent either to your email or phone, containing the security code you’ll use to get back into your account. Once you’re in, change your password to kick the hacker out.
Level 2: Changing Your Contact Information
Unfortunately, most hackers know how easy it is to retrieve your account if only the password has been changed. Thus, they often don’t stop there and go after your contact information as well. When that happens, you’ll have no choice but to contact Instagram’s customer support to help you.
Your contact information has likely been changed if you don’t receive the login link via email or SMS when you request it. In that case, click on I can’t access this email or phone number right below the security code field.
Soon afterward, you will receive an email from support explaining what steps to take next. Usually, that will involve verifying your identity at some point. Instagram has two ways of checking who you are, depending on whether you have photos of yourself on your account or not.
If you don’t, Instagram support will ask for your email address, the device you used when signing up, and your phone number.
If you do have photos, you will need to provide a video selfie turning your head to various angles. Using that, Instagram will confirm you’re a real person and the actual owner of the account. Once the verification is complete, the support will delete the video from its database.
As you can imagine, this process takes a while. Once support gets involved, it can be weeks before you regain access to your account. Of course, that’s far from ideal, but it’s the only option Instagram currently offers.
Level 3: Deleting Your Account
The worst thing a hacker can do to your account is delete it. In such a case, there’s almost nothing you or Instagram support can do. All the content, likes, comments, and followers are removed permanently, and Instagram claims it doesn’t store this data after deletion.
However, you can contact support and explain your situation. There is a thirty-day window during which you might be able to recover your account, though it’s best not to get your hopes up.
In some cases, the hacker might not delete your entire account but only some posts and stories. If that happens, go to the Your Activity section after you’ve regained access to your profile. There, you’ll find all your posts from the last thirty days and stories from the last 24 hours, which you can then retrieve.
Protect Your Account
The best way to secure your account is to protect it from the start, using a strong password, setting up two-factor authentication, and keeping track of third-party apps with access.
Of course, a skilled hacker might be able to bypass all the security measures you take. But the effort they would need to put into hacking becomes much greater. And why would they go through the trouble when thousands of unprotected accounts are out there?