3 ON YOUR SIDE (3TV) - You could say Jenna Abbadessa is pretty experienced when it comes to social media. With the help of her son Charley, the two of them have an Instagram account with nearly 40,000 followers.
"It took a solid four and a half years to get to 40,000 followers. So, it didn't shoot up instantly," Abbadessa told us.
In fact, Abbadessa's Instagram account has such a large audience, she's known as what's called a "social media influencer." That's when companies pay someone like Abbadessa to use their Instagram accounts in order to promote their products.
"We've done work for Target and Walgreens,” she said. "And Fry's Food is one of our biggest."
Abbadessa says the pay is so good as an influencer, that she was able to reduce her full-time job down to working just one day a week.
But things fell apart recently when Abbadessa realized a hacker had changed her email address, allowing them to take over her Instagram account.
"Yeah, I honestly thought it was a joke," said Abbadessa.
But it was no joke. The hacker texted Abbadessa saying, "Your account has temporarily been blocked. It's perfectly safe and we haven't touched it."
The hacker goes on to say, "If you do not respond, we will start to clear your account, delete photos and sell your account."
"I'm just kind of stunned,” Abbadessa remembered thinking. “I'm like, is this real life?"
The hacker demanded Abbadessa to pay a ransom using Bitcoin. But she didn't. Instead, she reported the issue to Instagram, which claimed there was nothing it could do.
“For the most part, these hackers are organized crime units found in Russia, China and Bulgaria," Ken Colburn told 3 On Your Side.
Colburn is a tech expert here in the Valley and says most hackers are overseas. He suspects Abbadessa's Instagram account may have been hacked because she was not using two-factor authentication, which basically allowed an open window for her account to be breached.
"So you need to be turning on two-factor authentication on every single account because they'll use one account to get into another. They know how to do this," Ken said.
Abbadessa says she's left devastated. She never paid the ransom and as a result, the hacker deleted her Instagram account.
She says the sinister event is so disturbing that she and her son won't try starting another Instagram account again. "It took so long to build that account and it took so much work. It's kind of emotional,” she said.
“You just want to move on?” asked 3 On Your Side’s Gary Harper.
“Yeah," she replied.
It's a good idea to change your passwords regularly and again use two-factor authentication on all of your accounts.