i got hacked

ok, so unfortunately i had to learn a very hard truth yesterday and that is, that nothing in this cyber world that we so frequently reside, actually belongs to you.  i'm still reeling from the events that have unfolded over the last 24 hours so apologies in advance for this grammatically void rant of an article that i am sharing, i just felt the need to get it out there before it happens again.  which, undoubtedly it already has in 10 folds, but such is the beast of the hacker.. . .cuz, yep, I GOT HACKED!!!

more specifically, my instagram account @misstarabelle got hacked.  stolen right from under my fingers in a blink of an eye and now years of hard work, content and a loyal following are all gone....POOF!  sure, all 50k of you guys are amazing and i love my followers for doing just that, FOLLOWING ME!!  and allowing me to live out my fashion dreams for the world wide web to see, but i know that if you want to, you will find me and follow me again and i thank you whole-heartedly for that!!  what i can never recover are the images and the videos and the hours of work spent editing and curating and stressing over those tiny little squares that were supposed to be all mine!  those are forever gone now and i won't lie and tell you i don't feel violated and disgusted and quite frankly pissed about the whole thing.  so, wah wah me, i know, but hopefully not wah wah you!!  here's what i know and what you can look for so that you do not wake up to find yourself in this same predicament.

yesterday morning, idk we'll say 9ish; i login to my account, i post an image, i scroll around, like a few photos . . . the norm.  then i login to my email and catch up on some blog stuff.  i can't say if they specifically target influencers, but it's how they hooked me.  i received an email not unlike many of the emails i receive on a daily basis, inquiring about my pricing for a post on instagram.

aside from the fact that it was a touch informal, it didn't initially stick out to me as odd because i get plenty of emails from over seas brands with broken english and terrible professionalism.  typically the first thing i do when a brand emails me, is search their instagram page.  this gives me a feel for their general vibe and what type of images they will expect of me and also the size of their following so i know if its going to be beneficial for my growth and if i should negotiate pricing or stick with my standard fee.  @Kivari_the_label checked out!  It is a legit brand with a large following and their style definitely aligns with mine, so i emailed them back.

now here is where things started to unfold.  i received another email which didn't make much sense and yet another link to show an example of the type of post they were hoping to receive from me.  at this point i hadn't clicked on either link because i was on my phone and i hate when it takes you to the instagram web browser instead of the app so i rarely click links unless i'm actually at my desktop.  i emailed her back again with a quick response, yes thank you, and then came the third email with yet again another link.  and what did i do?  I CLICKED IT...... insert all the why why why crying emojis here because this was the exact second that i unknowingly handed over my account to some money hungry jaggoff, never to be seen again.  i clicked the link...and up popped an error message, annoying!  so i go back to my instagram, click to open and ERROR.  i click again ERROR.  i manually type in my username and password and it says the username @misstarabelle doesn't exist.  i go to my web browser and type in instagram.com/misstarabelle and again, page not found.  now here is where the cold sweats and the dry heaving started.  i literally had no idea what to do.  i was dumbfounded.  i tried everything a hundred times.  login via facebook, change my password, reset my password, all dead ends.  
and then this email came in and suddenly i was in the back alley of a blockbuster movie bartering over disposable phones for where to drop the bag of cash and recover my instagram baby.  i mean, obviously that's a stretch, but in so many words, that's pretty much what happened.  

before responding, i reached out to instagram.  i sent them a full breakdown along with screenshots of everything i knew and begged and pleaded for them to please respond ASAP so that i could recover my account before it was sold on the black market for what purpose i'm not sure and then i waited and i waited and nothing.  instagram, i gotta say, i love you, but on the real... u really suck!!  how can i receive suspicious login emails when it's actually me logging in from my cell phone (the same cell phone i've had for over a year) but this didn't shoot up any red flags??
i caved, i emailed the terrorist.  and then i emailed him again.  and then i emailed him again and i finally got a response.  he wanted money (SHOCKER!!)  at this point i had a friend scroll her followers to see if she could still see my account and there it was, with a new username!  and here's where i got a tad lucky . . . i mean, not really, but in the grand scheme of things, at least i got my username back.  because he had changed it!  and the associated email and password and phone number.  he had changed all of it and then he had disabled the account entirely.  because of this @misstarabelle was available again, so i created a brand new account and snagged that name.  
so with my account gone, instagram support nowhere to be found, and an disgruntled foreign man demanding i pay him in bitcoin, i made the decision to accept it and move on.  i figured, what can i do?  i refuse to send money to some criminal in hopes that he's an honest man and will return my account like he says??  he emailed me half a dozen more times demanding money and threatening to delete my account if he didn't receive it within the hour and he did just that.  mind you, it takes a full 24 hours to be verified to buy/trade bitcoin, so even if i was willing to pay the guy, i would've never met his deadline.  but i did read another girls post of the same situation in which she used her cousins bitcoin account to pay the hacker and he did in fact give back her account, so maybe he was an honest man after all?  i honestly couldn't answer all the what ifs, but here's what i can tell you:

1.  NEVER click on a link in an email before doing a little investigative work
2.  NEVER count on instagram to fix it

this lesson was the hardest to swallow and by far the most disappointing.  how is it that instagram has no power to fix this?  how are these hackers able to beat the system and hold our property ransom?  how is it that instagram owns everything but in fact they actually own nothing and everything you thought was yours actually just belongs to the highest bidder??

i'm sure i will edit and stew and edit and stew over this post for all eternity, but hopefully it has helped some of you and prevented the theft of more accounts.

stay safe friends!  make good choices!


PS!  please give a girl a follow!!  same name, new accout :) @misstarabelle