Visiting my mom’s house over the weekend, I handed her an iPad. She likes playing games, checking email, browsing the internet, and of course, using Facebook to stay in touch with her friends and family.
Little did I know that setting up the iPad would take hours out of the weekend. And we still didn’t succeed.
Here’s what happened and I’m sure it’s happened to millions of others. To log into Facebook on the new iPad, we needed her username and password. We could see the username by opening the Facebook app settings on her phone. She couldn’t see the password, and since she set up her Facebook account years ago, she had forgotten it.
No problem, we thought. Since she’s logged in to Facebook on her phone we’d just reset the password and write it down. But to change the password Facebook requires you to enter the old password which she had forgotten. Facebook requires the old password to protect the account from someone changing the password simply by picking up the phone and opening settings.
Facebook will allow you to reset the password if you forget it but only by requesting a code to the email address or phone number you used when you first set up the account. Since many people first signed up for Facebook years or even a decade ago, they may not have access to that original phone number or email account.
That’s what happened with my mom’s account. She no longer used the Hotmail account she used to sign up and her phone number changed when she switched phones and carriers about a year ago. Without access to either of those she couldn’t access the code Facebook sent.
No problem, I thought. A few years, ago I set up Facebook’s Trusted Contact feature for this type of situation. Trusted Contacts allowed Facebook users to choose up to five friends who could help recover the account. I’ve recommended Trusted Contacts over and over again for just this type of situation.
Here’s how that helpful feature worked: If you forgot your login information and no longer had access to the email address or phone number, you could ask Facebook to send the code to a trusted friend who would verify it’s really you and would share the code with you to gain access to changing your password.
Sometime in the last year Facebook rather quietly discontinued Trusted Contacts. It just removed the feature and many people missed the notification.
What happens now if you forget your password and no longer have access to the phone number or email address? You are out of luck. There’s no other way to gain access to your account. If you’re logged in to Facebook on one device you can continue to use it until you sign out either by accident or on purpose.
After trying every possible password, my mom was forced to set up a new Facebook account using a new email address and a new phone number. As a result, she must start over. She lost all of her photos, posts, and friends lists.
Let her experience be a cautionary tale. Never forget your Facebook password. Write it down and store it somewhere. If your email address or phone number changes, change that information in Facebook’s settings.
Your friends can’t help you.