Here come the scammers

After having been locked out of my Instagram account for months because of wrongful reports, I have just gotten back access to the account for a week or so and I already get the first people reporting me again.

And how do I know that they’re doing this? They are in my messages and telling me that they are doing it. This is extremely brazen.

I don’t know what they are thinking but let’s hope that Instagram has tweaked some of their abuse processes or that my additional protection will pay off.

And that is definitely not the only one. Though the other attempt (below) to retrieve my handle is so delusional that it’s almost cute.

I thought I had problems with my Instagram account. Turns out it can be a lot worse than that.

I found out that there is a large secondary market where Facebook employees sell support and verification status to whoever can pay, but being able to commission an account to be stolen straight up is pretty extreme.

Turns out this guy got so much attention for his case that he got his account returned promptly but in the thread there are a bunch more people who are facing similar issues.

Another @firstname person losing theirs and then getting it back.

Another person being continuously hit by impersonation reports.

Losing @firstname on Instagram

I have my first name as my user name in a bunch of places. I’ve had my Twitter account (Twitter.com/alper) for a very long time but my Instagram account (Instagram.com/alper) got a lot more attention after Instagram got really big. A couple of weeks ago I lost that account.

I didn’t suspect that this time it would be permanent. It happened before that Instagram would lock me out of my account because they claimed I had infringed a not-specified guideline. I would open a support request, they would have me jump through some hoops and then re-enable my account.

Not this time.

Now why does this happen in the first place? A first name account like mine is considered OG (see this episode of Reply All). Lots of people—mostly from Turkey—would really love to have it. I know this because I get messages from them all the time. I ignore these messages. I also get lots of password resets from people trying to break into my account. I have the account secured.

What they then most likely try is to claim that I’m impersonating somebody. I don’t think I can impersonate myself but let’s just go with it. Instagram does not do any due diligence and if they get the right kind or right amount of reports, they just suspend my account. I guess that is the first step in a process through which the attacker believes they can get me kicked off the account permanently and then maybe later acquire the username.

Normally support would give me back my account in a couple of days. This time all my support requests have been black holed.

Instagram support is very well hidden but if you search around you can find three web forms in the support portal for a situation such as this one. I filled those in multiple times. I got in touch with people who work at Instagram through various channels. This dude followed me so I asked him about my account (no reply). I even had people open Facebook internal support tickets which still remain open. A support agent replied to me once but then ghosted me.

Speculation

If they would usually give me back my account, why don’t they do it this time?

One theory is that Instagram support is overwhelmed because of COVID. They seem to have difficulty even normally with the number of support requests so it could be possible that if things get worse, stuff just gets ignored. I don’t really buy this but it’s possible.

My theory is that somebody with some actual clout has put a hold on my username. People and agencies with access to Instagram sell services such as support or verified status illicitly. Maybe somebody is selling access to my username or they are using my username to trade for something more valuable. Facebook is under a lot of pressure to make advertising targets at the moment.

Resolution

By now I don’t think I will get my account back anymore. I’m waiting to see if it gets recycled and who will be using it after me.

It’s a weird feeling losing something that other people think carries significant monetary value.

But it’s a lot more annoying to lose your identity and sense of place. I’ve started a new account but without access to the old one, getting it to the same place has been a very slow and arduous process. I’m still cut-off from several hundred people who I would communicate with over Instagram, for some of whom this was the only communication channel.

Of course I knew that none of this was mine to start with and it could be taken away with the press of a button. I just ignored it. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

Update

I thought I would do a round of submissions of all the support forms again but it turns out they are broken. They request you to login to Instagram before you fill them in which is impossible if your account is suspended.

r/Instagram - How can I confirm it's me?

Let’s see how this develops but it looks like this is deliberate stonewalling.