How I Got Hacked: Richie Simons, @CuddleBuddy

How I got hacked
30 Mar
4 min read
Hacking victim Richie Simons

Having rejuvenated his family’s pillow business, Cuddle Buddy, things were going well for Australian Richie Simons. The e-commerce brand was gaining traction and sales were coming in.

However, one morning he woke up and made a mistake he’ll never forget, which led to his business’s Instagram account getting hacked. All it took was an email offering a blue tick - keep reading to learn exactly what happened and Richie’s experience trying to retrieve his account. 

Rejuvenating the family business 

“Cuddle Buddy was started by my parents in about 2003 and we sold our pillows in shopping centers all around Melbourne, Australia. We were the first to market with our pillows and people fell in love. We still have clients from back in those days who purchase from us.

After about 10 years brick and mortar retail really slowed down and my parents invested in a new business which distributes merchandise to tourist destinations around Australia. This business is still our main business and Cuddle Buddy has been a side operation of mine that has really grown a lot in the last 3-4 years, to the point that now it's grabbed the attention of my parents as a brand that has legs again.

I finished university in about 2017 and was pretty unsure what I was going to do and what really inspired me was Shopify. I discovered the platform and I fell in love with e-commerce.

Instagram’s role in the business

“I’m still a one man operation from a marketing perspective so content doesn’t flow the way I would like it to - but I’ve still built around 3,300 followers over the years. In terms of ads, Instagram plays a pretty big role for Cuddle Buddy.”

Tricked by the lure of a blue tick

“This might be embarrassing but here goes. I woke up one morning to an email saying I’d been accepted for the blue tick verification. I was pretty groggy in the morning and didn’t think anything of it. I clicked the link, put in my password and that was it. I wish I’d opened it on my computer because it looks a lot more suspect on a desktop. About 10 minutes later my sister-in-law sent me a story from my account and that’s where the whole saga began. I spent the next 14 hours on my computer trying to get it back but to no avail.

A phishing email sent by a hacker to Richie Simons
The phishing email Richie received from the hacker [courtesy of Richie Simons]

The hacker went in and changed my password, the email associated with the account and introduced Two Factor Authentication. 

When the password and email are changed you receive notifications from Instagram and they give a link to recover. However, when I clicked the link it just went to the Instagram help center, which is literally no help.”

Learn how Notch insures Instagram creators against hacks 

Despair trying to retrieve the account 

“I did heaps of research online and watched videos on Youtube, but nothing helped. 

The steps that they tell you to follow on Instagram’s help center only help if your account is a personal account. They do not work for a business profile. Believe me - I went through it 100 times. You get to a point where it's meant to ask you to verify your identity, but on the business profile it just loops back to the Instagram help center. 

Then I went to Facebook. I left a couple emails on their help center and then I discovered they now have a live chat. I have spoken to 6-7 different operators who all give the same answer. They all send the Instagram help center link. No one will offer any help beyond this.

I am 30 years old and relatively tech savvy, so I can't imagine how many other business owners are getting hacked every day and having the same experience. The worst feeling is that absolutely no one can help me.”

"I am 30 years old and relatively tech savvy, so I can't imagine how many other business owners are getting hacked every day and having the same experience. The worst feeling is that absolutely no one can help me.”

Impact on marketing collaborations 

“Two weeks later, I am still locked out. I release collaborations every month with Australian artists and this is something I promote heavily through organic posts and partnered posts with the artist. Getting hacked has disrupted my latest collaboration.”

How to avoid getting hacked

“Firstly, don't put your password in anywhere. That's a total red flag. Also, have a plan in case you do get hacked. I had never considered what I would do if I did get hacked and I was very panicked for a 24 hour period and not thinking straight. Finally, find friends working inside Facebook and Instagram!”

Learn how Notch insures Instagram creators against hacks 

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