How To Check If Someone Else Is Using Your Instagram Account
Every time a new technology is developed, one of the first groups of people to embrace it are criminals. Bank robbers use getaway cars, con artists use faked telegrams to establish their bona fides, and probably somewhere in the depths of antiquity, some unscrupulous merchant used the development of written language as a way to fake his accounts and rip off his customers. The Internet and its supporting technologies are not immune to this phenomenon. As more and more of our lives move online thanks to applications and platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, crime has followed suit. Increasingly, thieves are less likely to accost you in a dark alleyway and take your money, and more likely to steal your identity online or compromise your personal information so that they can use your credit. Social media accounts have become a prime target for a huge variety of online criminals. Hackers try to steal our personal identification so that they can pretend to be us and buy things in our name, while scammers use social engineering to trick us out of money or goods.
Tens of millions of people have already been the victim of online crime. Users have had their information stolen from websites, including their personal identification and their credit information. Sites as varied as Google Plus, Facebook, Equifax, and Yahoo have all been victims of data breaches affecting millions or even billions of accounts. Individual cyber-crime is even more prevalent. Official totals place the annual loss from cybercrime in the billions of dollars; ransomware payments alone are at a billion dollars per year.
It may seem that a site like Instagram is relatively safe from such fears, since it’s just a place for people to post pictures, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Hacking social media sites is one of the crybercriminal’s go-to moves, because social media accounts (even if they don’t have anything worthwhile to steal in and of themselves) are a doorway into a person’s entire electronic life. Our information is ubiquitous online, and having control of someone’s social media places a criminal one major step closer to having control of someone’s assets. Instagram has been a prime target of crooks and thieves; the company is owned by Facebook and has been hacked in the past, most recently in 2017 when up to six million accounts, including Selena Gomez’s, the most-followed account on the platform, were compromised.
With users constantly being targeted by hackers, scammers, and other users who just want to take your information from you, it’s important to note that taking your account back from those who want to cause you harm is totally possible. But how can you tell whether your Instagram has been hacked? In this article, I’ll show you how to do just that, and I’ll also teach you some techniques to increase your security level online.
Signs Your Instagram Account was Compromised
- Signs Your Instagram Account was Compromised
- Securing your Instagram account
- Use a secure password
- Turn on two-factor authentication
- Get recovery codes
- Check authorized apps
- Check your email security
- Log out of shared computers
- Don’t be a phishing victim
- How to Recover a Hacked Instagram Account
Some sites, such as Google, provide you with an update whenever someone logs into your account from a new device. Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t do that. In order to notice whether you’ve been hacked on Instagram, you will have to pay some personal attention to any activity on your account. This means paying attention to any odd posts or direct messages sent from your account. Here are some straightforward signs you can look for to help pinpoint what’s going on with your account.
The most obvious sign that someone else is using your Instagram account is if you see account activity that isn’t yours. That can include uploads that you didn’t publish, followers you don’t recognize or didn’t approve, or people you are following that you don’t remember following. While it is possible that you simply forgot about doing something on your Instagram account (particularly if you have a busy and high-volume account), if you spot a post that you know you did not create or a photo you know you didn’t take, then you have a definitive indication that someone has compromised your account.
Email from Instagram
If someone requests a change to their Instagram account, the site sends an email to the address of record to verify the change. If you see one or more of these emails when you haven’t made any changes to your account, then your account has been hacked. If you do see an email like this, you need to move quickly to secure your account. If your email has also been compromised, the hacker will also see the email, use it to change your details and then delete the email so you don’t get to see it.
If you see an email from Instagram telling you that a change has been requested, take action immediately. Do not follow the link in the email – log into Instagram separately and secure your account by changing your password.
View past account activity
A little-known feature of Instagram is that you can review all of your past account activity. Under settings, select “Account Data”. This will bring up a screen full of optional pieces of information you can look at. I suggest examining password changes and privacy changes as a starting point.
Check Your Logins
One simple check to perform is to look at your login history. The login history function in Instagram is very basic – it only logs the date and time of each login, nothing about your IP address or other identifying information. However, if you know you didn’t use Instagram on June 1, 2019, and yet there are six logins for that date – well, now you know someone else is accessing your account. The login record can be accessed via the Account Activity page described above.
Securing your Instagram account
Unlike Snapchat, Instagram allows multiple logins from multiple devices at once. Where usually you would be logged out if someone else logged in, you don’t get that in Instagram. So you have to depend on spotting unusual activity or that alert email from Instagram. It’s important to make sure you take responsibility for securing your Instagram account, as the company won’t always push you to take proactive steps in your own self-interest.
Use a secure password
If you suspect someone else is using your Instagram account, change the password right away. It is a simple step that takes less than a minute and will stop anyone being able to use your account. This is also a step you can take proactively; the stronger your password, the harder it is to hack your account.
- Log into Instagram.
- Enter your existing password and change it to something difficult.
- Save and log in using your new password.
Use a unique, difficult password or use a password manager to suggest something for you. Make it as difficult as possible while keeping it memorable. Or let the password manager do the work. What makes a strong password? Security experts say to use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters (such as @, !, #, etc.) and to never use the same password on multiple sites.
Turn on two-factor authentication
You should use two-factor authentication on every social network and every online account that offers it. Two-factor authentication helps to ensure that only you can log into your account, as you’ll receive a text on your smartphone with a confirmation code in order to log-in. This doesn’t just secure your account, but it also ensures that anyone attempting to log into your account automatically alerts you to their attempts, as you’ll receive a notice on your smart device. Here’s how to set it up.
- Log into Instagram and go to your profile.
- Select Privacy and Security.
- Select “Edit Two-Factor Authentication Setting”.
- Select either to receive a phone code or to have an application authentication turned on.
2FA (two-factor authentication) is now enabled and will ask for a code every time you log in.
Get recovery codes
As part of turning on two-factor authorization, you can get a set of recovery codes from Instagram which you can use to log in if you lose access to your phone for some reason. You can reset the codes anytime.
Instagram allows third-party apps to utilize your account to offer features and benefits. If you recently added an app and then found your account had been compromised, you need to check what apps are allowed to access your account.
- Log into Instagram and navigate to Authorized Applications.
- Run through the list and disable any you don’t recognize or no longer need.
If someone else is using your Instagram account and you change your password and remove unauthorized apps, they should now be locked out. If they gained access using an app, they will no longer be able to see what you’re doing or log into your account.
Check your email security
Many of these security tips rely on you having an email account that hasn’t been compromised. Your email account is usually the primary way for apps like Instagram to communicate securely with you. It’s crucial that your email account be under your control, otherwise all the work you do securing your other accounts will be quickly undone by the hacker or criminal. Don’t share your email account with anyone, change the password on it periodically, and never use the same password for your email as for your other important accounts.
This one seems incredibly obvious but it’s amazing how often people do it: you’re using Instagram at the library or the Internet cafe, and it’s time to go, so you just stand up and walk away…leaving your Instagram or your Facebook (or worse yet, your email!) sitting open to all comers. Whenever you use Instagram or any other secured application on a shared computer, it is crucially important to log out of that computer before you physically leave it.
Don’t be a phishing victim
Phishing is another way that hackers can readily gain access to your system. Phishing is when someone sends out an email purporting to be from Instagram telling you that there is a problem with your account, and that you should log in to fix it. The email includes a convenient link. So you click on the link, and it takes you to a page that looks just like Instagram’s, and you obediently type in your username and password. And now the hacker has both of those things. NEVER click on a login link that is sent to you via email; go to the website by typing in the URL (and not the URL in the email – the one you know to be good) by hand. Instagram’s URL is www.instagram.com.
How to Recover a Hacked Instagram Account
If your account has been hacked, Instagram does provide a workable system for recovering the account and regaining control. The first thing you need to do, however, is to figure out how the intruder got control over your account. If they just guessed your too-simple password, then all you need to do is get it reset and changed. However, it’s possible that the hacker gained access to your system through something like a keylogger (a hardware or software tool that records all the keystrokes on your computer and sends them to a hacker for analysis; this gives the hacker complete knowledge of all your passwords). If that’s the case, then you need to regain security on your computer before you recover the account, otherwise you’ll just be handing it right back to the hacker again.
Recovery at the Point of Change
You may have caught the hack as it began, by getting the email notification from Instagram that your email account has been changed. This is usually a hacker’s first move in seizing your account. If you get this message in real-time and you know that you haven’t changed your password, then you can click on the “revert change” link in the email and undo the hacker’s attempt at redirecting your account’s email correspondence. Quickly change your password after taking this step.
If the hacker has already changed your password, you won’t be able to log into your account, and in that case you will need to report the account to Instagram as stolen.
Using a Security Code
We discussed above having a security code on hand to regain control of your account in case of a hacking attempt. However, if you haven’t already got security codes in place, you can still retrieve them after a hacking attempt, as long as you still control the email address or phone number associated with your account.
To request a security code, go to the login screen on your device and tap or click “My login info isn’t working.” Then choose either the email address or the phone number associated with the account to have the codes sent to. (Be sure that you still do have control of and access to the e-mail account and/or the phone number before you request these codes – otherwise you are just sending them to the hacker and strengthening their hand.) Tap or click “Send Security Code” and Instagram will immediately text or email a six-digit code to your phone or your e-mail address. On the login screen, enter the 6-digit security code and tap or click “Confirm”, then follow the remaining instructions.
If you’re unable to recover the account using a security code, then you will need to report the account as stolen.
Reporting a Hacked Account
If your account has been hacked and you cannot regain control using the automated methods, then you need to escalate the situation and report it to actual human people at Instagram. Fortunately this is not arduous.
On Android, go to the login screen and tap “Get help signing in”. Enter your username, e-mail address or phone number, and then tap “Next”. Tap “My login info isn’t working” then follow the on-screen instructions. Again, be sure that the e-mail address you are providing is one that you have access to and control. You will then get an e-mail from Instagram with the next steps for you to follow.
On iPhone, the instructions are similar but some of the links have different names. On the login screen, tap “Forgot password?”, then tap “My login info isn’t working” and follow the on-screen instructions. Provide a secure e-mail address that you know hasn’t been hacked. Again, look for an e-mail from Instagram with further instructions.
Verify Your Identity
The e-mail you get from Instagram will come from the Security Team and will ask you to verify your identify. They will ask you to do one or both of the follow:
- Send in a photograph of yourself holding a piece of paper on which you have handwritten the security code they provide
- The e-mail address and/or phone number you originally used to sign up for Instagram, along with the type of device you signed up on
Once the Security Team verifies your identity with these checks, they will send you specific instructions for recovering your account.
Have you ever been hacked or had an account compromised? Noticed something wrong with your Instagram account? Tell us about your experience below!
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