Instagram now changing username handles without consent or notice

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    So I’ve either been hacked, or Instagram have pulled a great injustice and all signs suggest the latter.

    I’ve held an Instagram account for 5 years with an uncommon handle that is over 10 letters long, so not super in demand. It’s the exact same handle I use on Twitter and I also own the exact same .com domain, without any variation between them (the holy trinity!).

    Despite being an uncommon name, I still had a trademark awarded in 2014 to afford some protections across most Western countries and Japan (I won’t disclose the business or name as this could be an ongoing legal matter and the trademark identifies me, hence the throwaway account).

    Then today I discovered my handle on Instagram has been changed to now have underscores applied on either side, as in: “**_username_**”. I never received any notification from Instagram about anything, not even about any login attempts or password changes. In fact my password is still the same, the linked phone number and email are all the same. I can log in fine, the only thing that has changed is the handle.

    The account that now controls my original handle is in a 3rd world country, is not a corporation but has a few hundred thousand followers, more than mine. This individual goes by the same name that I own the trademark to, but their country is outside of my trademark jurisdiction.

    This handle swap appears to have occurred in the past week. Google searches for my original handle still return a preview of my page, but if you click the link it goes to the other account that stole my handle. So the change was recent enough that Google hasn’t picked it up, but to be honest I’ve been completely sidelined with my wife going through cancer treatment over the past year so really can’t be sure. I also haven’t been as active on social media for this reason, but AFAIK being inactive for a year or so isn’t cause to have your account handle modified without consent or notification.

    If I attempt to reset my password using my email or phone number as identifier, it simply applies to the now modified handle “**_username_**”, as if that has been my handle all along. If I try to reset my password using my original username which has now been stolen, Instagram provides the notice: “**Sorry, we can’t send you a link to reset your password. Please contact Instagram for help.**”. At first I suspected this may be because a 14-day lock is applied after changing a username on Instagram, but that doesn’t add up as the lock applies to handle changes, not password changes. If I was hacked and someone simply changed my handle and then took it over in their account, you should still be able to request a password reset link be sent for either account. So something is a little suspicious here on Instagram’s end – as they have intentionally locked my original handle after changing its ownership.

    At first I did think I must have been hacked, but I follow strong security protocol and I’m 99% sure my email hasn’t been hacked nor my phone. Whilst 2FA wasn’t enabled on Instagram, the password was strong and as mentioned, I never received any email or SMS alerts about login attempts or password changes. I’m highly IT competent and run my own email servers, nothing was sent to spam or otherwise.

    It all looks as if someone at Instagram simply changed my handle, without any consent or notice or request for further information such as my trademark ownership, so it could be used by another party.

    You would think that even if the individual that stole my handle had some legal recourse to do so, such as their own trademark claim, then at least Instagram would have informed me and given me notice of the change.

    I always believed Instagram’s policy was “first come, first served” regarding handles, as they specify in their own documentation. Based on Instagram’s own policies, low activity for a year or another account having more followers should not be means to confiscate a handle. Given the effort we all go to to build profiles online, it’s very worrying to have your handle taken off you without notice, regardless of whether you own the trademark.

    We all know Instagram’s support process is virtually non-existent, however I did manage to find a form to report trademark infringement, so I’ve filled that out with all details on how my handle was swapped over and I own the trademark, but to be honest I’m not confident anything will come of this.

    It is a very worrying sign that you too could lose years of effort building a profile overnight.

    I’m interested to hear anyone’s thoughts or advice on this, especially if anyone has had their handle changed without consent or notice, which is a very worrying sign.

    *TL;DR – Instagram changed my handle without my consent or any notification whatsoever, seemingly handing it over to a third party, despite me holding the handle for 5 years plus owning the trademark and other online properties with the exact same name.*


    Sorry but I don’t really know why this happened or how to solve this. But have you tried contacting the page with your username to see if they know anything about it?


    I’m sorry about what happened. Since you weren’t hacked, it looks like whoever took the username has a connection to some Facebook employees and they probably thought that you wouldn’t even notice.
    Unfortunately you won’t get it back unless you really establish your brand and then pay some agency to help you claim it on all social media platforms. That’s how big brands get all the cool usernames.
    You can DM that person and ask about the username, maybe they didn’t want to “steal” it. If they did, you can fire back by destroying their account engagement with thousands of fake followers and likes/comments.


    Please let us know if the trademark infringement report helps in any way. Sorry you’re going through this.


    You can claim a name from FB Concierge if it’s been abandoned (I believe it’s 12 months no log-in).

    Having said that, as of the past few months it does seem they are more protective over more valuable names. They request more info etc.


    Were you inactive on Instagram for over a year? If that’s the case they had no problem handing it over to the other company for the trademark claim. They do say they’re supposed to e-mail the offending party when a claim is made, but I’ve seen a majority of cases say this happened without any notification from IG. Your best bet would be to try and do a trademark claim yourself and explain your case.


    I noticed this too but months ago. I tried to get my lastname as username because the account with @lastname was inactive so i contacted the account but no reponse after some weeks i checked the account again and the username was changed to @ _ lastname_ . Then i searched for the account which uses the username now and it is a musician with about 10k followers and verification.


    Just change it back, its reserved for two weeks bro.


    A reporter could probably force Instagram to publicly explain their policy and what happened.


    I’ve acquired abandoned IG handles before, and that’s exactly what happened. Staff changes the original one to have _underscores_ preceding and proceeding the name, then my account gets renamed with the original.

    Sorry that happened to you.

    I do not know of any recourse. Just letting you know that it definitely appears to be an action by staff, and not some kind of hack.


    I hope this gets a lot more attention. We spend so much time on apps, earning ad revenue for the companies, who don’t give one tiny speck of f*ck for their users.


    Probably wont help, but I’ve seen people have some luck with companies that lack customer support, by trying to reach them via twitter.


    That is insane! I would be furious I can’t believe this. I’m so sorry man that truly sucks. I would spam Instagram and call them everyday that’s not okay at all!


    Facebook is the actual devil.

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