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Devastated Instagram couple’s page stolen by hacker who demands £30k for return
September 9, 2021
An Instagram hacker stole the account of a well-known influencer couple who used the page as their primary income source – and the thief demanded £30,000 for its return.
Al Ferguson, 33, and wife Jen, 43, founded online forum Dadsnet and have shared their lives with 30,000 followers for seven years – including highly personal and sensitive stories, including details of their seven miscarriages.
One day, Jen was shocked to receive a message on WhatsApp as she put her son to bed, from a hacker that called themselves 'The King' and who infiltrated their page, changed their handle, and demanded £1 per follower in ransom.
It read: "Hello, I have your Instagram account too. If you want to get it back, you have to pay money.
"Please make up your mind yes or no."
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Three minutes later Jen was sent a screenshot of the family Insta from the same number.
The handle had been changed from '@it’sTheFergusons' to '@PharaBenFarWay30K', which showed the amount the hacker was demanding.
Their family photo had been replaced with a picture of a bloodied face.
"This Instagram account is held to be sold back to its owner," was the eerie message left in the page's description after the takeover, The Mirror reported.
The parents, who use the page as a source of income through ads and sponsors, tried to get it back, but have had no luck – and the account has now disappeared.
Some of the 5,000 photos are gone forever, as they don’t have copies, and the captions which formed a diary of their heartbreaks and triumphs are gone forever, too.
They shared posts about baby loss, scan pictures of their lost babies, plus photos of Al crying when Jen had to go to theatre after partial miscarriages.
Al, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said: "We’re devastated. All our emotions and memories from the last seven years were in that account.
"It means so much to us and nothing to the person who's hacked it. It’s our photo album of our kids, and all those memories of how we were feeling at the time each picture was taken."
Jen added: "It feels like someone has come in and stolen all our diaries. They’ve taken our jobs too but the emotional side is much much worse.
"He’s taken all the deepest moments of our parenthood. Potentially we will lose contact with people we’ve been supporting for seven years."
All the social media accounts and the email address associated with the account had been hacked and taken over.
The account disappeared 36 hours later, on Tuesday morning, and they aren't sure if it was deleted by Instagram or the hacker.
"It’s just awful," Jen said.
"We don’t have any money. It wasn’t even a possibility that we could pay.
"Even if you could he’d just ask for more and wouldn’t give the account back.
"I’ve just got to try and get the pictures back somehow, and I’m not hopeful we’ll get those captions back."