Breaking the Loop: Facebook’s Phone Verification

I just had an utterly frustrating experience with Facebook’s mobile phone verification process, in which I was trapped in the step where Facebook expected me to enter the code it had sent me via text message. I managed to get free of this trap, however, and that is the topic of this post. My hope is that either Facebook fixes this, but in the mean time, I am also hopeful that this information is useful to anyone else.

The Problem

Let’s say you are a blog owner or otherwise want to implement Facebook’s new comment system (which I did today). To do so, you must first add the Facebook Developers app to your account, then use it to create a new application. This process is not detailed here, because the specifics of your app depend on what you are attempting to do. Before you can even create the app, however, Facebook requires that you verify your account with either an existing mobile phone number that you control, or a credit card. Given Facebook’s spotty privacy reputation, the last thing I trust it with is my credit card number. So mobile phone it was.

The first step is to go to the phone confirmation page at http://www.facebook.com/confirmphone.php and fill out the form. If for some reason you put in a number that somehow cannot receive the text message that Facebook generates, or you simply don’t ever receive it, you will be stuck on the next screen, which displays every single time you revisit the page. This screen says to enter your confirmation code. Since you didn’t receive a code, you can’t enter a code. And there is no visible link to change the number or request a new code.

The Solution

What is not apparent simply from looking at the very sparse page is that everything you need is right there on the page. There is in fact a link to send a new code, but it is cleverly hidden by an applied CSS-type style. You just have to find some hidden treasures and make them visible again. Oh, before you proceed, I just have to make sure that it’s something you can handle. If you don’t know how to edit HTML and CSS, then you won’t be comfortable with this either. If this doesn’t bother you, read on.

What You Need

First and foremost, you will need a browser capable of modifying the HTML and CSS of pages you’ve already loaded. Google Chrome is my browser of choice.

Second, you will need a mobile phone number that is supported by Facebook and the way it sends SMS (text) messages. My first attempt was a Google Voice number, and my second attempt was a phone that, inexplicably, was already registered with Facebook, although I couldn’t see it. My third option was yet another phone number I could use, that had not been registered in Facebook before, and is on Sprint. If you aren’t sure whether your phone will be supported in this attempt, all I can suggest is to keep trying until you either run out of phones or a verification code makes it through.

The Process

Open the phone confirmation page in Google Chrome and note the presence of the entry field requesting the confirmation code that was sent to you. Sign in to Facebook if necessary and load the page again. Once you see this, right click anywhere in the white space on the page and choose Inspect Element option from the popup menu. In the window segment that appears at the bottom of the browser window, you will see the HTML for the page. Hover over each element in the page structure until the code confirmation form is highlighted in blue. Click the triangle next to that element to expand the element and view its subelements. Repeat this until you see an item in the list that mentions requesting a new code. You will notice that it has a style attribute that includes display: none as its value. Double click the style=”display: none;” text and delete it. Press Enter and watch as this hidden link reappears on the page. Click the link to bring up a new form for you to enter your phone number. To make absolutely sure, though, you should traverse down the page’s HTML again until you get to the value field for the phone number. Go ahead and change the value to the number you want to try and press Enter. The value should change on the screen, since you will notice it had appeared already populated with the number that didn’t work. Submit the form, and if you don’t receive any error messages (like the number is already registered to someone else), then you should receive a code. Use that code to verify your account.

OK, so that was a lot of instruction, with no screenshots or pictures. If anyone has and wants to submit screenshots of this process, be my guest. If I ever get around to trying it again with a different account (meaning I’d have to create another account simply to do this), I will be sure to take step by step screenshots. In the mean time, I will try to answer questions as best I can.

13 thoughts on “Breaking the Loop: Facebook’s Phone Verification”

  1. Facebook now lets you enter a new phone number without having to do any of these CSS gymnastics. But I still haven’t received any texts on the Google Voice numbers I’ve tried.

  2. I haven’t been able to verify chadv’s claim below. If anyone has more details, I’m sure lots of people will be interested.

    1. @abhelton When you create a new account, and after a week or however long they wait before forcing you to enter a phone number, the page that comes up after you try to log in tells you that you need to verify your account. There’s a button on that page that says use a different number or something. I didn’t do anything special.

    2. @abhelton I didn’t do anything special. When you create a new account, after a few days, FB forces you to verify your account with a phone number. They do this by forcing you to a verification page when you try to log in. On that page, there’s a button that says “use a different number” or something like that. Just click that and it lets you enter a different number. Are you guys not getting this page?

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