Sunday, December 06, 2020

Impersonated and Disabled By Instagram--and it COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!

As you know, I have had this blog for several years.  I also have a larger following of 10k on Instagram.  Well, I did, until Wednesday.  Let me start from the beginning...

On Wednesday evening (Dec 2), I discovered that another Instagram account was stealing my pictures.  I reported the incident to Instagram (via the impersonation form you are asked to completed online).  To my shock and surprise, Instagram disabled my account (@YellowBeadsAndMe) and put this FAKE "sugarmommy" account back online!
My first thought was to stay calm and let the process work but it has only gotten more complicated over the past three days! You see, Instagram no longer has a support phone number and no support email.  (I have googled numerous articles and watched videos, and the process has only gotten harder this year as Instagram says they have fewer employees due to Covid). My only action is to fill out forms and wait. 

You can not simply email Instagram support

The first response I got from Instagram tells me that "your account has been disabled for pretending to be someone else".  WAIT WHAT?!  No, Instagram, I am not the impersonator! I am the one who's pictures are being stolen. (You would THINK a comparison of the two accounts would show that but remember we are dealing with hackers who are smart and probably have complicated plans in place!)

I have continued to fill out the forms and haven't heard a thing.  I have also tried (unsuccessfully) to reach out to IG on Twitter and through private messaging. Crickets. And let me say that I did immediately change the passwords on my email accounts and Instagram accounts. 

So basically my problem is two fold: 
1. Someone is stealing my pictures, and IG believes they are legit.
2. My account has hence been (wrongfully) disabled.

Now it gets even more complicated! You won't believe this! Every time the "sugarmommy" IG account is back online, I report as impersonation.  I also have several friends that report it.  And each time IG puts it back up. (This has already happened numerous times.)  So the hackers must be using a false ID or false documentation to get the account back up.  AND each time the account is re-activated, I get an email IN GERMAN to MY EMAIL ADDRESS. (Obviously hackers have changed my preferences.) 

Strange right!? How is my email attached to the spam account!? I tried to do a "forgot password" on the sugarmommy spam account. But I never get the link.  Just weird. But again, this shows you how sophisticated hackers can be.

My friends and supporters are in shock. Anyone with common sense can compare "sugarmommy" to "yellowbeadsandme", and know who is real.  How is Instagram allowing this? And how in the world do I pled my case!?

I have worked so hard on Instagram to grow.  I had just recently hit the 10k follower mark.  I was building great relationships with businesses in the community and had a number of sponsored ads that I need to post.  (So yes I have lost friends, contacts and income.)  

Sadly, I am not alone.  This is just one of the many messages I have received.


Day 5: I was able to get through to a rep on Facebook Business Ad Support CHAT.  (Since I have run ads on IG and FB I was able to easily access this feature).  I was told, "We apologize for the inconvenience that has caused you, Jen. Our team is focused on Facebook Ads and Pages. Instagram account issues are handled by a different team within our Internal team and they need to handle it directly by going to Instagram Help Center."

Followed by, "You have taken the correct step in submitting an appeal for your (account) this time, we would like to ask for your patience to wait until you hear back from our Internal team regarding the review of your account. It is their utmost responsibility to filter and read all the appeals so you can rest assured that your sentiments towards the reactivation for your account will be reviewed thoroughly."

And "This may get extended for a few days depending on several factors like the number of requests made (since we are reviewing cases on a first-come-first-served basis), the source of the issue, or if there are deeper technical issues (widespread)."


Day 6: The good news is that I have not seen the spam/fake account back up (unless they changed the user name and they are blocking me?!) The bad news is that I continue to get a message saying that I have been disabled for pretending to be someone else. 


Day 9: Late in the afternoon I received an email from Facebook asking me to write down a special code along with my username and real name on sheet a paper.  Hold up the paper, showing my hands, and snap a picture.  I did as they said, and emailed back immediately with the picture...And 24 hours later NOTHING!  

So here are the things I HAVE done so far (that have obviously not been successful):
  1. Emailed Instagram general support, but received a reply that email support had been closed. I was told to visit the Help Center for ways to get support.
  2. Completed the general IG form (3 or 4 times a day!) that my account was deactivated, and I would like to have it back. As requested I have included my a picture of myself with my ID each time.
  3. Completed an appeal form (3 or 4 times a day) giving the details (and this blog post link with all the details).
  4. Found "other" contact forms
  5. Went through Facebook Business Help to find a form stating "my Instagram account has been deactivated" form, -- and included proof that I own my domain name! 
  6. Have tried to direct message @Instagram @Creators and @Mossari on Instagram asking for help. My messages are unread.
  7. Have tagged @Instagram and @Mosseri on Twitter. No reply.
  8. I reached out to Facebook for Business via chat (see above for details).  They said they couldn't help me.
  9. Sent my story to a contact at a local new station's Investigative Department team.  No luck.
  10. Tried the "forgot my password" route. No luck. 

Day 15: No update. I continue to fill out the forms daily. It's so disheartening.  I had another sponsor turn down an ad. I'm losing income each day, and I can't get any response from Instagram. 

AND ANOTHER SPAM account has popped up using my name and picture! Fortunately, Instagram took it down quite quickly.


Day 20: I again reached out to someone on Facebook Business Manager chat.  This person (named Cams) was much more pleasant than the person I had chatted with on Day 5; however, I am still disabled.  I was hold to wait 48 hours.  I kept explaining that it had been nearly three weeks already. 

I was told to be patient and let the process work, so to speak. I was told there was no need to continue to complete the help forms each day.  At the end of our chat I was messaged, "Just a quick run through of our conversation today, you chatted about your disabled Instagram account, I advised you that our Internal team is working diligently to resolve your concern and you will be notified once there is an update."


Day 27: It has nearly been four weeks that I have been disabled.  I have lost hundreds of dollars in sponsorships.  I am getting quite depressed at this entire situation! My new plan is to reach out to "Instagram engineers" on LinkedIn as suggested on TikTok by @realavalouiise (who was disabled THREE times in 2019!) I have sent messages to five folks but so far no return messages.  


Day 40: I've continue to complete the appeal form every 2 or 3 days.  Nothing.  I also tried for a third time to speak to a FB business chat manager.  Going in circles  It's frustrating.  Today I was told, "Upon checking on your account, it appears that since you already filed an appeal for your deleted Instagram account, what we can do is to wait for our internal Team to respond on your appeal. Rest assured that your concern will be taken care of. We are working on it already and further investigating the issue. I understand it has been longer than the estimated time frame. You are on the right path, it's just that we really have to wait for the Internal Team." 


Day 54: NOTHING! I've continued to complete the appeal form, every 2 or 3 days.  I've not heard a thing. I have tried again to reach out to a few Instagram engineers on LinkedIn but have gotten no replies.  (It really bugs me that I am "real" on Facebook but they think I am "fake" on IG!?)  I have talked to one person who had her account back in two week after submitting business tax forms to prove her identity. Unfortunately, I don't have that paperwork. I have submitted domain registration but that doesn't seem to be doing me any good??


Five months later:  I AM BACK UP AND RUNNING!!!  YES FIVE MONTHS!!!!  My advice: Keep submitting those appeal forms.  It took five months but I never gave up!  If you have ANY emails from Instagram/Facebook support, continue to reply and plead your case.

To Instagram, Please improve your support process! I can't be the only one having this issue. There has to be a better way for users to appeal their case and get that accounts back!

To anyone coming across, this post, I pray you are not here because you are in the same boat as me. It's pure hell. It's awful. I feel like my business has been stolen from right under me, and there's nothing I can do.