This week one of my social media accounts experienced a hit from a hacker. I wasn’t hacked directly, it’s a more insidious attack; my Instagram account was “impersonated,” which means all my information was duplicated to another account with an almost identical username. Then, the hacker contacted my followers and pretended to be me in an effort to obtain account access and financial information from innocent Instagram users.
This happened on a day I had an outpatient surgical procedure: a double pain-in-the-neck day for me as, instead of resting up, I spent the day contacting people in an effort not to watch them lose access to their accounts.
I watched the hacker message my followers, many of whom are personal friends and candle customers. I received hundreds of messages from people telling me about the hacker’s messages as I tried to comply with Instagram’s policy of reporting fake accounts. I quickly discovered that the social media giant isn’t very concerned when it comes to the troubles of one small-time “influencer.” Although I have over 30K followers, my efforts to report the account were pointless. I got error messages when trying to report the account, and when trying to resubmit, received a threat message that doing so again would result in my account being restricted.
Owned by Facebook and in a similar way to that site, Instagram doesn’t have customer service. There are no phone numbers, chats, or email addresses. It’s a lawless society. This self-care checkout social media world we live in is a place where they can develop the technology to shake your phone and make a report about something, but when you do it, no one will read it or respond.
I read with interest one article by a journalist who had an experience with account impersonation, but it seems like Meta (conglomerate owner of Facebook/Instagram) has grown less and less responsive over time.
A hacker can steal your account, photos, financial information, do permanent damage to your business and mental health, and no one at the venue that’s hosting the interactions will do anything to help you. It’s as though a giant party is hosted every day, endless crimes are committed, but there are no consequences or punishment because the party host doesn’t care and makes a choice to look the other way. I don’t know much about law, but I wonder if, for a brilliant class action lawyer somewhere, that looks like opportunity.
Speaking of opportunity, wouldn’t it make sense if someone used this plague of hackers to monetize? And who would that be? Cue Mark Zuckerberg. Coincidence or conspiracy? Announced on February 19: Meta is testing paid verification for Instagram and Facebook for $11.99 a month on web and $14.99 on mobile.
Zuckerberg announced on Instagram that a “Meta Verified” blue check verified badge account similar to Twitter would be tested, offering increased visibility, prioritized customer support and more.
“This week we’re starting to roll out Meta Verified—a subscription service that lets you verify your account with a government ID, get a blue badge, get extra impersonation protection against accounts claiming to be you, and get direct access to customer support,” Zuckerberg wrote. “This new feature is about increasing authenticity and security across our services.”
So it looks like my security breach ran into perfect timing when it comes to finding a solution which will end up being: pay to get it fixed. Social media isn’t a birthright. You get what you pay for, and we haven’t been paying anything. It’s going to be “pay to play” and it’s amazing it hasn’t gone this way sooner. It’s hard not to scoff at Zuckerberg’s use of the term “extra” impersonation protection since my experience this week shows that we have zero protection currently, but would I pay the money? I guess I would if I could. I can’t currently, because then-Facebook blocked my ad account for unknown reason ages ago—they won’t even take my money and ignore my requests to tell me why.
Social media is a necessary evil today if you’re in business; how we navigate and survive it is another matter.