A month back I discovered that an old Gmail account of mine was hacked. I used this email as my official one during my post-graduation days to exchange documents with my college mates and professors. After leaving the institute I gradually stopped using this email as the address had my institute name in it, but I continued to use it occasionally.
I started to use LastPass just after my post graduation in 2009 and used to login to that Gmail account with the help of that software, and so was unaware that I haven’t changed the account password since 2008! This is a serious mistake from my part. Probably I was ignorant as this email was no longer my official one as I changed account passwords for my main and official emails on frequent intervals.
Anyway, so last month after logging in to that account I observed a strange thing! Along with the various newsletters I subscribed and the usual junk mails I saw some genuine notification emails from Instagram. I checked the sender address to be doubly sure. I do not use Instagram frequently and so disabled all the notification mails from Instagram. Suddenly, I remembered that my Instagram account is linked with my main email address, not this one! I further discovered that the email content is in German language and Instagram and was addressed to someone named Wintenena! Then I realised that most possibly my account was hacked and after searching found that my email was added to that account on Mar 2019! At this point let me tell you that I changed the Gmail password sometime during Dec 2020. So, most certainly there is no longer any threat from the person who hacked my account, apart from the annoyances associated with the Instagram notifications from her account!
So, I attempted to contact Instagram support but found no way of contacting them directly. Instagram help at https://help.instagram.com was also not useful as I needed to be logged in to access sections like deletion of an account. I tried to reset password of that Instagram account but I was asked to verify the linked phone number which I couldn’t do. Eventually I lost hope and tried to make peace with that.
Today, after a month I logged in to that Gmail account and the first email I was greeted with was an Instagram notification. This irked me and I attempted to unsubscribe from such emails. However, the German language of the newsletter was making it difficult for me find the proper unsubscription link. So, I copied the content at the end of the mail to Google Translator and found what I was looking for a month back!
The last line of the translated email says, “You can unsubscribe from the updates or remove your email address if this is not your Instagram account. Unsubscribe or remove your email address from this account.” So, yes, you can remove your email from an Instagram account without going through any hassle. Just click on the appropriate link.
The takeaway from this incident was that we need to ask the right questions. A month back I was looking to delete the hacker’s Instagram account, but what I needed actually was to remove / unlink my email from her account. If you search Google for “How to remove email from Instagram without login” you will get many results but I didn’t even search for this!
Also, always change your Gmail password regularly and use a strong, unused password with letter, numbers and special characters at least 10 character long. You may not use that account regularly but since you still are the owner of that account you don’t know what annoyances / consequences it brings if the account gets hacked.