ABU DHABI: A travel blogger in Abu Dhabi has been left distraught after a cyber criminal hacked her Instagram account and later deleted it because she did not pay $200 to regain access.
Delaine Maria D’Costa who had over 100,000 followers said her entire social media-based business has been wiped out.
“As a travel blogging couple, my husband Jackson and I had amassed 105,000 followers over several years. We had invested a huge amount of time and effort on our Instagram pictures," said D’Costa, who is licensed by National Media Council (NMC) to promote brands, businesses and products.
"We had also collaborated with several brands and were making a decent earning. Now, it’s all gone,” added D’Costa.
She said her ordeal started around noon on October 29 when she received an email seeking collaboration with a fashion brand.
“At least that’s what I thought it was,” the longtime UAE resident recalled.
“The mail contained a link. When I clicked it, I was asked for my Instagram username and password. As soon as I entered my details, I realised my mistake and changed my password, but for some inexplicable reason, I still got locked out of my account,” said D’Costa.
“Shortly afterwards I got another email which said that my account has been hacked and I had to fork out $400 in Bitcoin to regain access. The hacker threatened to either delete my account or sell it to a third party if I did not pay.
"I was still reeling from the shock when he scaled down the demand to $200. I wanted back my account desperately so I initiated the payment process. As luck would have it, the payment didn’t go through.
"This enraged the hacker so much that he deleted my account,” said D’Costa as she shared a string of emails detailing the hacking and extortion episode.
She said her efforts to report the problem to the Facebook-owned photo and video sharing social networking service has been frustrating.
“When I called their helpline, I was told that I have to contact them through their app. There’s no way I could have done that because my user name, phone number and email ID don’t exist on Instagram any more," said D’Costa.
After several attempts I got an email from Instagram asking me to submit a picture of myself carrying a placard bearing my name and that of my Instagram account along with a code number they sent," she told.
"However, any hopes for a resolution were quickly dashed when Instagram sent me another email seeking the name of the device I used to first register with them."
"This is ridiculous because my account was created way back in 2012 and god knows what devices I had then,” said D’Costa adding that she has become an emotional wreck and has barely slept since losing her account.
D’Costa’s case is not an isolated one.
Of late, Instagram has been hit by a widespread hacking campaign which appears to have affected hundreds of users, leaving them unable to recover their accounts.
Victims say that despite going through all the necessary steps, the platform has yet to assist and the automated systems that Instagram uses for account recovery have not proved effective.