A local family business has lost its Instagram customer base of 36,000 followers after a hacker broke into their account and posted child pornography.
Chalke Valley Soaps, a natural, handmade soap business based in Chalke Valley, Salisbury, was devastated on Friday 19th November when their social media accounts were hacked and child pornography was uploaded, causing Instagram to completely block their accounts.
Speaking to the owner of Chalke Valley Soaps, Helga Soket said, “On Friday at around 5pm I noticed some issues with my Instagram – it wasn’t working properly and within half an hour my sister called and said ‘your Facebook account is hacked, there are some awful images on there’.
“I logged in and quickly changed my password but I was blocked. My personal Facebook account is linked to my business Instagram account and when I went to check my Instagram everything was gone.”
Instagram is a huge part of Helga’s business with over 95% of her sales coming from the social media site.
“Without the account, we hardly do any sales. We have lost most of our customers because they can’t see us on Instagram. We have some loyal customers that keep coming back but no new ones. In the run-up to Christmas, we should be really busy but now we have nothing,” explained Helga.
To try and regain control of her account, Helga informed the police of the indecent images. She was then referred to the Internet Watch Foundation, who would be investigating the content, to make them aware that the account had been hacked.
“Outside of that, we don’t know what to do. There is no way to contact Facebook or Instagram. We have tried everything, all the forms that we could fill in, but it hasn’t amounted to anything.
“There is a little bit of hope that if we can just talk to the right person, or find somebody who knows someone who works at Facebook, then hopefully we can infiltrate them and it could potentially be dealt with,” said Helga.
In an attempt to get a response out of Facebook and Instagram, Helga has been sharing her story on Twitter, calling for support from the press and action from the tech giant.
“All the responses I have had on Twitter so far are from other hackers offering to unlock the account for money. I tried one person who said they could help but they have just taken my money.
“It’s devastating. There are two issues, one is getting the business back on track, but also trying to raise a profile that Instagram has a responsibility to look after small businesses like us. They are allowing hackers to monopolise on this by not providing a clear route of help for victims that have been hacked.”
Helga has created a brand new business account, @chalkevalleysoaps.new, and has sent a newsletter out to customers and wholesalers making them aware of the new Instagram page and asking them to follow and share it.
“I am trying to appeal to someone who might know someone who works for Facebook or Instagram, whilst at the same time trying to grow the new Instagram account so we can get sales through for Christmas.
“I have just moved to this wonderful workshop, the business is growing and I have been working so hard for the last two months. I have been making soaps every day to make enough stock for the Christmas period and my business has literally gone overnight.
“I have three weeks to sell the stock so I can make my money back. It’s just so sad to see the business falling, it’s my baby. The business had a lot of potential this Christmas and it needed to because we are expanding.”
While heartbroken about the loss of her main source of income disappearing overnight, Helga says that the small business community have been so supportive.
“I have already got over 500 followers in a couple of days. In Salisbury the community is amazing. People are sharing my story on social media and they are all extremely supportive. They are really lovely, but I don’t know if it will lead to getting the account back.”