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A person looks at the Instagram app on an iPhone.

I survived heart surgery when I was 15 and an encounter with a slow-moving train when I was 17. I have made it through a typical array of storms and crashes and personal and group disasters, including a lousy medical diagnosis.

I must be a somewhat even-keel person, because none of those things has thrown me much and I am, for the most part, still smiling. But lately I find that my love-hate relationship with social media and all the doors it opens to potential vexation has me sitting firmly on the edge of a slow burn.

I almost got there last night when my daughter asked me why I changed my Instagram username to Jeanicehallman. And my email, too.

Wait. What?

It appears that in the last month, someone has hacked my Instagram, changed my email address, username and password and locked me out. My pictures — the shadow silhouettes I take wherever I go, my beloved cats and dogs and the artsy architecture shots, not to mention the photos of my husbands and kids — are now attached to someone else somewhere else.

Since the last two letters of my new email address are .ru, it seems possible the hacker’s from Russia. I don’t know. I do know the hacker’s a jerk.

I can’t think what anyone would gain from having my Instagram account, aside from the misanthropic joy of depriving me of it. I don’t even use it that often. But hijacking it is at the very least the cyber equivalent of the punk who pauses as he walks past your house, looks over his shoulder to make sure he’s alone, then kicks in the slats of your vinyl fence. There’s no obvious reward for doing it, unless you crave the perverse joy of knowing that you’ve inconvenienced, upset or cost someone else something and gotten away with it. But there is a cost to the fence owner, whether it’s time or resources or just the sense his belongings are his own.

Most hacks are petty and mean. But I wonder if, allowed to go unchecked, the perpetual hacking of social media accounts will eventually turn into something darker, just as identity theft and credit card fraud have. And it’s hard to say what could happen if hackers pair seemingly inocuous data bits together, in terms of creating vulnerability.

Still, we tend to grind our teeth and brush these things off, just as we did credit fraud and identity theft when it began years ago. If credit card companies and law enforcement had taken seriously the theft of card numbers back when it wasn’t a common problem, it wouldn’t be a common problem. By now, most of us have fallen victim

On occasion, I’ve known enough to be able to provide information that could lead to apprehension of an individual who made fraudulent purchases. That includes the time I got a call from a company asking if I ordered a high-end camera to be picked up at a store in Florida. Nope.

The credit card company had zero interest in getting authorities involved to catch the thief, who made an actual appointment to pick up the camera. The rep said it wasn’t worth the effort. I suspect arresting identity and credit card thieves early on might have chilled what has become a tidal wave of fraud that costs companies and individuals and raises costs for even those who were not otherwise impacted.

1 comment on this story

When a purse or backpack is stolen, it’s hard to get law enforcement excited to go all in to find the thief. But doing so could prevent who knows how many other thefts and serve as a deterrent.

Hacking should be deterred, even if the cost is not immediately clear. I don’t know what, if anything, losing control of my Instagram account could entail. But I know it’s part of a destructive, demoralizing pattern that is becoming more common.

So if you see Jeanice, tell her to shove off. That account — seldom used and neglected as it is — was mine.