We have our Instagram account back!
Thank you to all the wonderful supporters who messaged us about this issue and tried to help, and to our followers who were so patient and caring. And a very special thanks to the supporter who helped us to finally resolve this impossible situation!
We apologise for any inconvenience.
This is what happened:
In May, our Instagram account was hacked and stolen. When we realised what had happened, we followed all the automated steps to attempt to recover our account. However, because the hackers had changed the username, none of our old passwords were linked to the new username and we couldn’t recover it that way. One of the ‘last resort’ actions that Instagram asks you to do is to upload a selfie video to their reporting system so they can identify you. We tried this with a few of the staff who have featured on our account, however it didn’t work, as most of our photos are owls! We tried, through every channel we could find, to contact Instagram, Meta and Facebook, but with no luck. There is no way to contact a person. None of our reports received a response and the scammers began using our account…
We also received threatening emails from the hackers. We followed advice and did not respond to any of them. When it seemed clear that we were not going to regain control of our account, we proceeded to report it as fraud and impersonation. We also reported the scam to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and Action Fraud, who accept the reports of cybercrime issues and forward them to the police. Although they looked into it, it seems that no-one was able to help.
Our priority was then to contact our followers and supporters. We managed to get one last post out on the account, through our Meta suite, to say we’d been hacked. It stayed for 24 hours before the scammers took it down. We put posts out on our Facebook and Twitter pages, and on our website, and we emailed everyone who has agreed to be on our mailing list, warning them and asking them to report and block the account. We had hoped that if enough people reported the account, Instagram would be forced to take it down. We had no way of contacting our nearly 9,000 followers on Instagram. We reached out to other organisations and friends and asked them to inform their followers. Some of those put out stories and posts across their social media platforms, which we are hugely grateful for, and we hope reached many people.
We are now working with a local cyber security company to increase our security levels across the Trust, to do our best to ensure nothing like this, or worse, happens again.
The posts that the scammers put up (see below) were quite clever… Their first few posts were of owls, but not British ones, and although the English was not perfect, their ask for money for “sick owls” could absolutely pull the heart strings. Their latest posts included the name of a photographer who has supported us, and we’ve mentioned in previous posts, as well as a photo of a Barn Owl and a comment saying that the account was hacked but is now back on track. Of course, that was not the truth of the matter at all.
We have been sent screenshots of messages that have been sent to individuals. These messages always ask for money for “sick owls”. We hope that no one got pulled into this scam and, if they did, hopefully the ask of money to be sent via digital currency/crypto-currency stopped them at that point. If you received any messages, we are truly sorry.
Needless to say, this is a brief run down of the events and much more has been happening in the background. We didn’t know how long this would continue to go on for and we kept trying to fight it and protect our supporters, but we came up against an awful lot of dead ends with Instagram. We are deeply sorry that this has happened and are distraught that our supporters were being affected too.
Then, with a stroke of luck, one of our supporters put out a call for help on his LinkedIn page. This particular supporter has friends who work for Meta and managed to get in touch with someone who could resolve our problem! The next thing we knew, we had our account back! It was a huge shock to us after all the weeks of battling and all the stress! We never thought we would have our account back! It felt very surreal but was such a relief!
So now we will be messaging the hundreds of people the hackers contacted to apologise and explain. We will be sending out emails to our mailing list soon and contacting everyone we contacted before to let them know they can unblock us! What a rollercoaster! From what we can see, no one actually sent the hackers any money, which is a huge relief.
Please make sure that your social media accounts, personal and business, are as well protected as you can make them. We thought we were safe, but we now know just how clever the hackers are and have found out that, sadly, this happens a lot. Difficult situations can cause people to act in desperate ways… Hopefully, one day, things will turn around for the hackers and they can walk away from this way of making a living 🤞
Thank you everyone for your understanding and support ❤
The Instagram posts made by the hackers on our account – and our genuine posts.
Can you tell the difference?