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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Using Author Pen Names on Facebook - and Getting Locked Out!

Boy do I have a story to tell - and fortunately, the solution that finally worked to get my Facebook access back after they locked my access to both my profile and Page due to my not using my "real name." 

(Shoshanna Evers has been my pen name since 2009, which makes it legally my real name in 46 states just by the fact that I use it everywhere - and I have an Idaho-state DBA (doing business as) Shoshanna Evers).

Backstory: 
I had a Shoshanna Evers profile from 2010 that was converted into a "Like Page" when I couldn't add more friends. For a couple years I just had that Page, and no profile attached.

Then, FB made me create a profile to attach to the Page. So I created a Shoshanna Evers profile. I hid the profile in searches so only my Like Page would come up (I don't want to have to double post in two places on FB), I didn't add any friends to it, and only used it to interact in my Street Team FB Group and during FB events like book release parties.

Separately, I have a private FB profile under my married name where I post pics of my kid, etc, for the relatives. That profile is hidden and there are no cross-over friends.

Here's what happened:
On May 21st 2015 (as I write this is the 28th, and the problem just got resolved a few hours ago), I participated in a FB party using my Shoshanna Evers profile. I've done that before. This time, I decided to message the 4 winners to make sure they knew to email me for their prizes. BAD MOVE!! That flagged FB, because I was messaging people who weren't my "friends."

So don't ever message someone who isn't a "friend" from your profile, because that will get you flagged! Good to know, right? Fortunately I have made all the mistakes this week so you don't have to! ;)

The next day when I went to log in, I got a message saying my account access has been locked until I "verify my identity."

Silly me, at first I was happy. Yay, they're going to give me a blue check mark just like Twitter did, right? NOPE. I sent them what I had sent Twitter - a pic of a contract that showed I was (legal/birth name) writing as Shoshanna Evers along with my driver's license showing I am my legal name.

Denied. So I end up going back and forth, sending a total of eleven documents (including my Idaho DBA, a royalty statement, a screen shot of my access into my own official website, a screen shot of a Tweet to FB from my Verified Twitter account, etc) all verifying that I am really Shoshanna Evers, and that it's really me running the profile and Page - unlike, for example, the Shoshanna Evers page that I *don't* run, which I also linked to.

Every step of the way, a new person contacted me to tell me no. It took me a very long time to realize that no one was actually looking at my past emails or documents - each time they denied me and said I have to verify my legal name is Shoshanna Evers.

I quoted their own help site stating that it has to be your "authentic name" - not LEGAL name - but the name you are known as in real life and online - if you've ever met me, you know I introduce myself as Shoshanna Evers. I reminded them that since October of 2014 their "legal name" policy changed to "authentic name" because they had a lot of backlash from drag queens who were forced to out themselves using their legal male names.

No one listened. No one cared. It was like encountering a steady stream of brick walls, each one entirely new and with no knowledge of all the links and pics I'd sent.

Then, some jerk at FB closed my support ticket (and I'm thinking, "hey, we're not done here!") and worst of all, changed my Shoshanna Evers profile name to my married name. I couldn't even get into my account to deactivate it! He totally doxed me and put my married, private name out to all the FB groups I am a part of. I got a screen shot and a confused email from another author asking why my name had changed, but she couldn't click it because the profile was gone. Fun, right?

Here's how I finally fixed the problem:

  • I reopened the case.
  • I recognized I would need to send them ONE image that contained:
    • 1. a screenshot of their own help page stating what forms of ID are acceptable
    • 2. Circled the forms of ID I was giving them (two from Option 2)
    • 3. The forms of ID on that same image, right there, with the circled form of ID pasted above each one. (I used the free program Paint and used "Paste From" to add the pics I needed, in case you aren't sure how to make several images into one easily)

In other words, I made it impossible for anyone looking at that one image to deny me access. And I got it back. *throws confetti*

What forms of ID did I use?
An employee identification card - fortunately, as CEO of my company, I issued an immediate directive that all four employees could have ID cards on request, and I requested one. Ta da! 

The other was membership in a professional organization - RWA. I am attaching the image I sent them so you can see what finally worked. And since I doubt I am the first or last author this is going to happen to, I am blogging about this as well. When I was searching online to find out how to fix the problem, all I found were people who were flagged for using their actual legal names because their legal names sounded "fake" to someone at Facebook. *rolls eyes*

Hope that helps you - oh, and another form of ID you can get now in case you have a problem in the future is to save mail sent to your pen name and take a pic of it.

Best,
Shoshanna, who is glad to be back on Facebook!



Sexily *Evers* After... ShoshannaEvers.com
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author



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37 comments:

  1. This is so helpful! I'm bookmarking and sharing. Thanks!

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  2. Thanks for sharing this, Shoshanna. That is so weird and disheartening at the same time. The weird part is that I've tried to message people who aren't my friends and it won't let me but it's never flagged me for it. I too would have a hard time proving this because my pen name is my legal middle name that was my maiden name. I have it on a few things but not what they want. They could verify the Crain part and I'd have to do the DBA or my birth certificate to prove who I am. LOL! However, I could do exactly what you did...so this is very good to know!

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  3. I'm sure I will need this at some point despite having a checking account and credit card in Veronica's name. Thanks.

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  4. This just happened to me around the same time period and they refused to accept mail addressed to me under my author name despite pointing out it was on their list of acceptable ID. Fortunately I had enough other items that I was able to flood them with legal paperwork. I had no clue messaging would trigger this. I, too, participated in a release party (not my own) and replied to a message from the host.

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    1. That is so frustrating! According to their list for Option 2 acceptable IDs, you need to submit two of them. And since you can only upload one image at a time, and each person who responds only looks at the previous message & image upload, you'd need to put a pic of the mail on the same image as another ID. :/

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  5. I can't believe they posted your real name and thought that was okay! What a nightmare! Glad you are back, and thank you for sharing. :)

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    1. It's really awful. The need to be careful or someone will end up suing them.

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  6. I am so pissed at them for "outing" you. Like explosively pissed. Don't they know that we use a pen name for a reason????

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    1. Exactly!!! My husband was so upset (me too!). He literally wanted me to sue them for doxing me. I told him I don't have the energy or time to pursue litigation. But that's how upset we were! >:(

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  7. This makes me so angry. I get creeps who are not my "friend" -- and probably using fake names -- message me all the time. I wonder what FB does about that? Probably nothing.

    And that list of acceptable IDs? Why does FB think it is okay for them to require someone release private banking, medical, social security information to them? They are a huge company. Any FB employee could use any of that information for their own personal gain. And like you said, each contact with FB was with a different person. So that means several people at the company have access to tons of personal information.

    And just yesterday Google+ announced they are changing some of their terms to be friendlier to users who have gone through stuff like this with FB.

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    1. Facebook doesn't do anything unless you report the person who messaged you. I wonder if one of the people who I messaged from the FB party that they were one of the winners mistakenly reported me and got me flagged in the first place!

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    2. You're absolutely right about the risk this creates for identity theft. Authors have used assumed names for a very long time and Facebook should only be required to match non-sensitive identity info with the author page on Amazon or something similiar. Perhaps something from the publisher if trad published or using a small press.

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  8. Thank you for the great post, Shoshanna. I may have need of it someday. :)

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  9. Well, I guess it's a good thing I use my former name for my author page (and my pen name) and my married name for my personal page. As for notifying winners: could you just put a message on the group asking them to friend you for information on their winnings.
    And thanks for the alert.
    Being a writer is freakin' hard enough and then to deal with all of this nonsense...

    Mitzi Reinbold w/a Mitzi Flyte

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  10. I know of two authors - both well established as writers, not just a one-off novel - who have recently had the same problem. I can understand FB wanting to verify a name as a legitimate one because of all the fake garbage there is... but shouldn't it be enough to just show a book cover and maybe a royalty statement to prove 'yes this is my authentic pen name'. What IS worrying - I have a couple of friends on FB who use an alias because of domestic violence. If one friend had her real name put out - as with your case - both she and her child would be put in severe - possible fatal - danger from her ex! Thanks for sharing this!

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  11. WOW! What a crazy journey. Thanks for sharing this information. I'm sure you're not the only one who will end up having to go through this insanity. Glad you're back on Facebook.

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  12. I am one of Helen's author friends who has fallen foul of this nightmare! Twice and expected a third time any minute, Went through the same futile battle to prove my perfectly legal name as you, Shoshanna..hit the same brick wall of computer generated indifference. They have also targeted the pagan and steampunk communities , so guilty on all three charges LOL! I just wanted a human being at Facebook to discuss this matter , apparently they no longer employ any...

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  13. How did you get a human being there? This happened to me last year and I could not get one. I am worried because I finally selected a new pen name and wanted to register it with them yet I am worried because I don't have anything published yet so would not be able to produce id. Please tell me how you were able to get someone. I couldn't even get anyone to respond to my emails.

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    1. That's so frustrating, Lisa! There was a link for me to click to submit proof of my identity. From there, a person (I think a real person?) responded. Each time I clicked to send more ID and got a contact form. I never got responses from emails - always via their contact forms.

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  14. Finally and Congratulations!!!!

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  15. Hi, I just stumbled across your blog. I'm sorry this has happened to you but I'm happy to hear that you have your Facebook account back.

    I just want to point out that you don't simply get flagged by messaging people who are not on your friends list. My account doesn't use my real name nor do I have a DBA name, but I'm able to private message non-friends all the time. I think (and this is just a hypothesis) your account alerted Facebook because it did not have any friends and little to no activity on the profile itself, so the messages looked like suspicious activity to FB. This is a common activity among spambots (those empty profiles things that automatically post on groups). Obviously, you're not a bot, but having friends and posts on your author profile would have helped make it look more authentic to FB. I know, it's a weird system, but just my two cents.

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  16. That makes so much sense!! Thank you for the input.

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  18. Hi there, your story is very interesting. I've no faced such fashion problem using Facebook so far. However, it's good to know you profile and page both locked out after whatever you've done. I'll surely not commit any of the things you've done and got blocked. Thanks for letting know about good things.

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    1. Okaaaay. "It's good to know you profile and page both locked out after whatever you've done." ?! *smh* You're just trying to get your site backlinked on my blog. Nice try.

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  19. Yep. They did the same to me. So I axed them. Twitter is way more effective for marketing anyway. That is a lot of hassle to gain the "opportunity" to be advertised to and pay for advertising on their website. It's utter BS. There are tons of sites who allow authors to use pen names. Who needs them?

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    1. As much as I dislike using FB compared to Twitter, Facebook is where the readers are. It really is. Marie Force did a reader survey of 6K+ readers, and most of them get their info about books on FB. A negligible percentage uses Twitter or other sites.

      That's why we as authors really DO need Facebook. And that's why we've got to either petition them for changes to their policy (like the drag queens successfully did), or develop ways to get them to rely on their own rule that a pen name can be your "authentic name", such as what I did.

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  20. While i am not an author, I am an artist who works with particularly controversial subject matter, some of which could put both myself and family in jeopardy. Facebook did this to me a few months ago and would not accept the name I've been using for 13 years and which absolutely no one is aware is a pen name. This is for my safety, not just to satisfy a whim. I will not return to Facebook ever again because of this policy. I think I would have a different outlook on it if it was not selective enforcement of a rule. And with little to no exceptions to consider the safety of the individuals using a different name. I appreciate your thoughts on it Shoshanna. I am glad they gave you your account back. But at this point even if they came to me and said you can use your account of 9 years again. I would not return. This is just plain wrong of them.

    I wrote a very specific log entry about this on my blog, but I doubt it will ever be seen by the decision makers on Facebook. But it felt good to write it anyway. Please feel free to read: http://blog.immortalartist.com/2015/07/gulag.html

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  21. https://www.change.org/p/facebook-allow-writers-artists-actors-to-use-their-professional-name-on-their-personal-profile well it is the big mess now as only robots it means all the writers and artists should leave Facebook

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  22. Thanks Shoshanna, for this post, good to know for the future.

    At the moment, I've got the opposite extreme: they won't let me register for facebook using my pen name stating "we require all users to use their real name etc." And reading your story, seems to make it impossible to get a satisfying solution for this ;o(

    Tried various times, but I don't even get past the registration page ...

    any suggestions?

    regards,
    Jaxxon

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  23. They did this to me too.. dox my real name to 100s lf GLBT groups and even a nasty cyberbullying forum called kiwiwfar.ms who would not have my legal name unless it was for them... https://www.change.org/p/facebook-let-casey-heinzism-use-his-performers-celebrity-writers-pen-name-on-facebook?recruiter=16540962&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_for_starters_page&utm_term=des-lg-no_src-no_msg&recuruit_context=fb_share_mention_variant&fb_ref=Default

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    1. I registered my pen name as a DBA I will keep you updated if facebook finally approves me to use it or not. :D

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  24. I finally after three weeks of submitting the same documents made a video of my notary from the bank copy of my DBA application, submitted State id. My NASE Card. and I signed up from BNSF Citizens of Rail Security and got an id card from them too bot the the NASE and that you download from their site... I also submitted two of my work ids I am work at home freelancer so I of course made them but they said they were fake.. at first... last time I submitted that and close ups photosof the notary, a link to all the othersocial networks i use the name on, photos and links of my amazon books.. 16 photos on video and 20 links later.. Finally got Approved.. for Casey Heinzism on my account. Frustrating this was like a four week fight with the same documents... and 4th time i fought to prove I am Casey Heinzism...What a pain your work id, and two membership cards or a notary paper should be enough and two cards.. Make sure to take printscreens and videos of your approval to.. I wish I did that the three other times.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x9xleqyOcs&feature=youtu.be

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  25. Thanks a lot for publishing this! I will try it now. Do you think I will be able to recover my account if the birth date was fake? I put 1917 on the facebook profile, when it is actually 1966.

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  26. The Erotic Authors Guild will also issue an ID card to its members. This can include your valid pen name, date of birth and a photo (which are the requirements for a valid membership ID in Facebook's requirements.)

    In addition, an easy second form of ID is a credit card. Contact your major credit card issuer and request a second card be issued to an "authorized user" in the name of your pen name.

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