Anna Roberts and her family travel the United States while sharing their adventures on Instagram. Their account, @therobertswerehere, currently has over 20,000 followers, but early in 2022 they lost everything to a hack. Keep reading to learn how it happened, how Anna got the account back, and security advice for other creators.

The rocky road to becoming a full time creator

“I have been starting my own businesses and creating as a photographer since my early 20’s. As my photography business grew and I was having kids who I loved to take on adventures, I saw the potential on Instagram to help support my family doing things I love while being with my kids. 

Instagram is my full time job along with being a mom. It has rarely been an easy journey. A lot of perseverance has gone a long way. Never giving up when I was overwhelmed, but adjusting where needed. Remaining true to myself when I was tempted to try to do what others were doing and staying as consistent as I could.”

The start of the journey

“Our account started off focused on our adventures getting outside and exploring as a family and has also added our school bus conversion and full-time travel around the U.S. At the time it was hacked, we had around 9,000 followers. We monetize our account by licensing photos to and creating sponsored posts for brands and tourism boards”.

Phished in 60 seconds

“Our account was hacked in January 2022. We had met a couple in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia the year before. They saw our bus, we struck up a conversation and started following each other on Instagram. 

In January I received a Direct Message from their Instagram account. At the time I thought I was talking to the people we had met in Virginia, now of course I know their account had been hacked and I was communicating with the hacker. 

“At the time I thought I was talking to the people we had met in Virginia, now of course I know their account had been hacked and I was communicating with the hacker.”

Nothing in the wording stuck out as strange; the message was friendly and asked if I could take a look at a new clothing business they had just started. 

I said sure and the message back was that they would text me a link. My first thought was, “How can you text me when you don’t have my phone number?” I thought maybe that was just something you could do from Instagram (I honestly am still not sure about this). 

I received a text message with a link, clicked on it and it took me to Instagram. I thought maybe it was supposed to be a link to their “clothing business” page on Instagram. I responded that the link must not be correct. The message I received back was to take a screenshot of the text message with the link and send it to them. I quickly thought maybe they wanted to see what’s wrong with the link.”

A momentary lapse in concentration 

“It’s important to point out here that I had taken my phone out to check my DM’s in the middle of doing school with my kids and prepping meals, among other things, something I don’t normally do. Basically I was doing too much at once and not fully paying attention to the message I was responding to. 

“I was doing too much at once and not fully paying attention to the message I was responding to”

If I had been paying more attention, there’s a good chance I would have caught on that something wasn’t right. I took the screenshot, sent it to them, and set my phone down to get back to my kids, thinking I would get back to the message later. Something in my gut did feel a little weird the whole time, but I was doing too much at once to pay much attention. 

Later that evening, I clicked on the Instagram app for the first time since sending that screenshot. It instantly logged me out and I couldn’t log back in. I knew right away I had been hacked and it was from those DM’s. I did not have two-factor authentication on. I had briefly heard it mentioned once or twice, but really hadn’t paid much attention to it or stopped long enough to take the time to learn the importance.”

You might be interested in: Multi Factor Authentication: How it works and how Instagram hackers bypass it

Unable to fulfill contracts with brands

“I was completely devastated. The tears came more and more as I attempted to get back in. I had contracts I was in the middle of that we were depending on and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to fulfill them and get paid. I was afraid I would lose all of the memories and words I had written down with them. That account was the culmination of a lot of time and hard work, only to have it ripped out from under me. ”

“I had contracts I was in the middle of that we were depending on and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to fulfill them and get paid.”

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Held to ransom for thousands of dollars

“I barely left that same spot on my bed in the bus for two days as I tried to get my account back. Nothing was working. My password, email and phone number had all already been changed. I knew instantly that I had to work to somehow let my followers know what had happened, in hopes no one else would be tricked by the hackers. I was also reaching out for anyone who could help me. 

I used my personal account and started following and messaging as many people I could think of who I engaged with on the account that was hacked. I also started sharing every step of what was happening in the stories of my personal account and asking others to share in their stories that our account had been hacked. 

I also shared in Christina’s Facebook group because it is always a great resource of help from other creators. Long story short (after many of our followers messaging and having conversations with the hacker, the hacker giving the account back for a night only for it to be gone again the next day, and then being held ransom for several thousand dollars… which I don’t recommend ever paying the ransom!), I was connected with someone who worked at Facebook who after a few days had a “team of engineers” get our account back for us.”

No one to talk to from Instagram

“My experience with Instagram support was awful. Someone camping near us instantly helped us get an email to Instagram. Many of our followers also sent emails on our behalf. To this day I never received any email back from Instagram. There was no real person to talk to and the steps they had given on their help page would have only been helpful if my phone number hadn’t also been changed, but most likely that will always be changed right along with your password and email. Instagram was not helpful at all.”

Creators are getting hacked every day

“Getting hacked was violating, exhausting, humbling, and an emotional rollercoaster. But it turns out I’m far from alone - after getting our account back, I got a regular flow of messages from people who also had their accounts hacked. It happens every day and Instagram isn’t doing anything to help”.

“I got a regular flow of messages from people who also had their accounts hacked. It happens every day”

Advice for other creators

Insurance against hacks for Instagram creators is HUGELY important. I didn’t hear about Notch until after being hacked and wished I would have known about it.

Insurance against hacks for Instagram creators is HUGELY important. I didn’t hear about Notch until after being hacked and wished I would have known about it.”

I’d also urge everyone to have two-factor authentication on and never send a screenshot of a link to anyone. If you get an email that looks like something official from Instagram about your account, always look very closely for any kind of spelling error or something out of the ordinary in the name/title/link. Be very vigilant about messages and emails. 

Anytime I get a DM from a hacker I share it in my stories. A lot of people still just don’t know any better and need to be told and see it. I always get messages back from someone thanking me for sharing because they didn’t know”. 

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