I’ve held a Facebook account since the day it first started and have spent many wonderful years filling my profile with pictures of my children, videos of places I’ve visited on holiday, birthday wishes, family occasions, relationships, births, heartbreak and happiness. Facebook has unconsciously become the footprint of my adult life since my tender teenage years, and when I was locked out of it this week because they needed to verify my identity I panicked at the thought of losing my profile, and priceless memories, for good.
When Facebook halted my login on my phone app asking me first to confirm my identity I decided to check around online to see if this was some kind of spam or fraud first to target my personal details and information. After extensive searching it appeared that Facebook hadn’t been hacked, and indeed their new policy is to ensure that Facebook users use their real names and date of birth to prevent identity theft, and I suppose remove any false or malicious users.
I was presented with the option to enter my birth name and upload a form of official identity to confirm this, for which I took a photo of my UK drivers license on my mobile and attached it within the app. You can also do this via a browser and other documents are acceptable if you don’t have a drivers license, the full details are here.
It took less than a minute for me to complete the identity form for which I received a message on screen stating “Thanks For Your Help. We’ll take a look at the documents you submitted and get back to you. If we need more help confirming your name, we’ll reach out for additional documentation.” And I fully expected Facebook to ping me across a confirmation email within a few hours. Four days passed and I was still locked out of my account, as each time I tried to access the app or browser I was prompted by a login screen where I had to enter my email and password, before being directed to the Confirm Your Identity page which showed me the same standard Thanks For Your Help message as before. I couldn’t login, couldn’t access my business page, use messenger or view any Facebook content. I received no word from Facebook, no emails, no texts, just silence and a locked profile and my friends text my phone to say that they couldn’t get their messages through to me on Facebook and asked if something was wrong.
So I started checking out message boards and help topic posts online to see if other people were experiencing the same problem and how long it would take for my profile to be returned, if ever, and I was shocked at what I found. It appeared that people had had the same problem with verification as me since 2011 with some profiles never returned, others taking several months and some less than 24hrs. As it had been five days already and I needed my page returned as well as my private profile ASAP, I tried to find other ways to reach Facebook or confirm my identity more quickly where others said it was impossible. I had this horrific image of millions of peoples profiles sat pending in a queue whilst members of Facebook staff trickled their way through a handful of profiles a day confirming individuals identities and the backlog growing more extensive each day.
I found that accounts can be verified by a passcode, which is a number that you’ve set on your profile much like a pin code that only you will know. I used the Login Settings on my Facebook app, found on the welcome screen as a clickable link where it displayed my profile picture and first name and asked me to enter my passcode. I wasn’t sure if I’d set a code, nor what it would be, but I tried my luck at using a four-digit number I’d most likely to have given and jumped for joy as it was accepted. Only seconds later it redirected me to the Thanks For You Help screen and stated that Facebook would look at my submitted documents and get back to me. So it appears it doesn’t matter whether you sign in with your user name and password or passcode, as Facebook still have to verify your identity before you can have access to your profile.
Next I tried to contact Facebook via their help centre and filled out an online form to Report An Issue With Verifying My Account. I was sent an email from ‘Facebook’ saying “Hi, thanks for contacting us. It looks like you filled out the wrong form. We’re sorry for the confusion. Please fill out the form below to get back into your account. This is the link they sent to me via email. But it was the exact same form I had already completed, so I replied to the email with “I have been unable to access my account for the past 4 days and have a business page under my account for which I pay daily ads, I have no access to either and cannot see what notifications, messages or money is going out. Is there a way to confirm my identity ASAP please as the link you have just sent me is the same form that I completed already. I have completed it again and attached my UK drivers license once more. I really appreciate your time and desperately need access to my account. Thank you.”
Within a few minutes I received an email response back from Facebook again stating “To reopen this account, please reply to this email stating your authentic name (as it would be listed on a government-issued ID like a passport or drivers license.) Once we know your authentic name, we can update your profile and reactivate your account. Immediately I replied with my full name and the message “Will this give me access to my account?” and awaited their reply. Nothing came. By this time it was midnight in England and time that I went to bed to be up for the morning, I sat checking my email for around an hour to make sure I didn’t miss their correspondence, but when nothing arrived for over ninety minutes I fell asleep.
The following morning I was greeted by an email from Facebook stating “Hi Tracy, thanks for verifying your identity. We’ve unlocked your account, and you should now be able to log back in. We’re sorry for the inconvenience. Thanks, Jack B, Communications Operations.” And after inputting my email and password I once again had access to my private profile and page after five days of being locked out. I believe a problem occurred with needing to verify my identity because a few years ago I added a jokey middle name to my profile, as most people were using nicknames at the time, Disney character titles or completely random identities and I thought it was cute to give myself a funny middle name too. Clearly it’s not and it caused a whole lot of hassle now that the rules have changed! So my advice to you if you wish to avoid your account being locked or deleted is to remove any information from your profile that isn’t legally correct, such as a false year of birth, incorrect middle names, nicknames or fantasy locations and use your real first and last name along with your date of birth as shown on legal documentation. You can still set your information to private so that other people can’t see it, but for Facebook if it doesn’t add up your account will be taken, so it’s not worth the risk of losing your profile that’s taken years to build.
I hope that in showing how my account was returned to me you can have your account verified too, and save a bit of time from waiting around being locked out. If Facebook haven’t caught up with checking your information yet then save them the hassle and make changes now before you get locked out for something that could take a minute to update yourself.