Insulating Instagram: How to protect your account from getting hacked

What a Shame!

MANHATTAN — In the 12 years Arsen Gurgov has owned the Arsen Gurgov Hair Salon on E. 60th Street and Madison Avenue, he’s built up a large client base — and a very large Instagram following.  

He had 17,000 followers on his verified account — meaning Instagram has determined it’s a legitimate account with legitimate followers, therefore making the account more valuable.

He spent thousands of dollars a month posting videos on Instagram videos of him cutting clients hair with the latest fashionable styles.

Then, one day three months ago, his Instagram account disappeared with no notice of how to get it back. 

“I got a text message on WhatsApp stating that your account is permanently disabled,” Gurgov said.

“It didn’t look suspicious — it just told me that I should verify myself because my Instagram account was under investigation for whatever reason…”

Panicked, he contacted both Instagram and WhatsApp, both of which are owned by Facebook.  

“I can’t get in touch with anybody from Instagram” he said. “There should be a way for Instagram to recover your account.”

Apparently, so far for Gurgov, there hasn’t been.

He believes he reported the apparent hacking to Instagram’s help site, where he was instructed to submit a selfie with his account code. He did, and received a reply in Turkish. Translated, it says “We are unable to evaluate your case at this time.” PIX11 News cannot confirm this was a legitimate Instagram email.

It does raise red flags, and may have been sent by a hacker, according to Ondrej Krehel, who owns Lifars, a New York cybersecurity company. 

“There’s a very famous Turkish group right now that’s exploiting these accounts and they are very sophisticated,” he said.

His company charges $10,000 to $15,000 to recover hacked accounts for the rich and famous.

“There’s some trick here, Arnold, which I can’t reveal,” he said.

So what can the average Instagram user do to lessen their chances of being hacked?

“If you can, set up a separate email just for Instagram that you never use anywhere else,” he said. Plus, use complicated passwords and dual factor authentication, and beware of all links.

Before opening a link, Krehel said, try to contact the sender using it’s own website to make sure it’s legit, but don’t contact them through the email you received; it may belong to the hacker.  

Gurgov is now building a new Instagram account. As for being hacked:

“We are all victims of this cyberwarfare that’s being played — and we are all targets,” he said.

PIX11 News submitted a list of questions to Instagram for this story. Our emails received no response.

If you’ve got a story for Arnold Diaz and What a Shame, email arnold.diaz@pix11.com

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