In these times, double down — on your skills, on your knowledge, on you. Join us Aug. 8-10 at Inman Connect Las Vegas to lean into the shift and learn from the best. Get your ticket now for the best price.
Beginning in 2021, Miami real estate agent and model Kay Jenkins found herself in the crosshairs of the prolific Instagram hacker OBN.
Jenkins’ 100,000-follower modeling account has repeatedly been shut down by OBN, forcing Jenkins to pay thousands of dollars in ransom to have it returned to her, she told ProPublica in a recent investigation.
Jenkins told the outlet she was targeted by OBN after influencer Celina Powell hired the hacker to go after Jenkins out of jealousy once Powell saw a video on Instagram of Jenkins dancing with Powell’s then-boyfriend at a Miami club. Jenkins’ main account was reactivated and deactivated based on the status of her friendship with Powell, who confessed to hiring OBN to take down Jenkins’ account.
Jenkins said she spent $10,000 in total to get her account back and lost an untold amount of income from the times her account was suspended. She said her Instagram popularity helped her earn between $15,000 and $20,000 a month through sponsorships and subscriptions on the paid content website Onlyfans, which she no longer uses.
Having her accounts deleted amounted to losing a significant chunk of her income, she said, which culminated in driving her to contemplate suicide.
“It’s not just that my Instagram was gone, it was that they had taken thousands and thousands of dollars from me, I was being attacked, I was being blackmailed, I was being extorted, I was being mentally broken down by internet bullies,” she told Inman. “It wasn’t just ‘oh, my Instagram is gone and my life is over.’”
Jenkins has hired a lawyer and is seeking $25,000 from Meta, the parent company of Instagram.
Inman spoke with Jenkins this week about her experience, her advice for others to avoid being hacked and her path forward in real estate.
The following conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Inman: Can you tell me about your experience being hacked?
Jenkins: It started when I moved to Miami two years ago. I’ve been a real estate agent for 10 years now. I was licensed in Utah for the first eight years of my career. I decided to expand my business and move to Miami. In the meantime, my modeling was blowing up. I had done a shoot for Playboy, I was being interviewed on top podcasts, I was kind of blowing up, everything was moving very fast for me and I was from a very small town so I was moving a little naive and not able to control any narrative.
Long story short, my account went down 56 times, I believe, in a course of maybe nine months. It would go down and maybe two days later I would get a message saying “Hey I can get your account back, pay me this amount of money.” You start to think it’s multiple different hackers — no it’s one hacker, who has multiple different accounts.
When my model page went down the last time I was like “I can’t do this anymore,” it’s almost so stressful that I’m just going to focus on my real estate page and that’s it. And then my real estate page started getting threatened. They were like “you think you can just ignore us? We’ll find this page too and this is your business page so it’s got to be more valuable.”
That’s when I decided to make a video. It’s ten minutes long, it’s a raw video of me talking to my audience, explaining what happened. I had screenshots I printed out and was showing proof of the harassment and the blackmailing and the extortion. That went viral, and that’s how ProPublica found me.
What method did the hacker use to have your account deleted?
They were able to do it with fake verification. The hacker had multiple verified accounts, which shouldn’t have been verified because they’re not real accounts — like what is this person?
What he’ll do is then take my picture — my face — and make it the verified Instagram’s profile picture. Then, that verified page goes over to my page that has the same profile picture and reports me for impersonation. Within 30 minutes of a verified page reporting another page for impersonation it gets shut down.
What was Meta’s response like?
They gave a duct tape job to what needs to be concrete, in my opinion, as far as offering this paid subscription now. Let’s be honest, it was literally two days after my article got released that Meta said they were going to allow verifications now. People that have worked their asses off to build a brand, to be reputable, to have a blue checkmark — they’re devaluing their system.
How do you think their response to hacking could be improved?
What I always said was we need a customer support team. Verified accounts always had that support. They can log in and it will say “creator support” and they can have a direct chat with a Facebook employee that can say “hm let me look into this for you, I’m sorry you’re having this inconvenience, I’ll get back to you shortly.”
Another thing they could do is — they read all our messages anyway — they have access to all our information, they can read all our messages. There are triggering words. They should start putting in sensors and use this AI to pick up triggering words like “I’m going to deactivate your account. Pay me this amount of money and I won’t deactivate it” — that’s illegal! It’s extortion!
What advice would you offer to help Instagram users avoid being hacked?
My advice would be don’t ever even respond to those people, don’t ever respond. Leave it in your requested messages, go directly to their profile and report them. There are a couple of things: There’s bullying and harassment and there are hate messages, you can do either one depending on what you’re feeling like for the day. In my opinion, a message like that is bullying and is hateful. Immediately report and block those kinds of people.
How did you get your account back?
I posted that video, it goes viral in the first like 30 minutes. Nineteen minutes after I posted it, my model page was back, just reactivated. I didn’t get any email, nothing, it just popped back up. And since then, I have not been messed with.
So my accounts are back, I’m thriving, I just put a $15 million commercial property in escrow and closed $3 million last month, I don’t do Onlyfans anymore.
I moved to a big city, I was caught up and I didn’t really know a lot of things and I was just figuring it all out, really that whole situation, being shut down, was eye-opening for me because it did make me realize where my true calling in life is and what’s worth my time and energy — which is my real estate career.
I’m licensed in three states, I’m a shark and I produce fairly well when I’m focused. Dealing with all that Instagram stuff made me unfocused, I was like worried about being a hot girl on Instagram as opposed to a top-producing broker.
So I’m thankful I learned all that, and now, if they were to take my page I’m to a point where it wouldn’t really bother me.