Google reserves the right to lock your acccount forever if you move house.
It can be easy to take the services and accounts we use online for granted, but at the drop of a hat access to a service can be taken away, and for reasons that leave you dumbfounded. Reddit user Donovan McLeod (Reddit handle chicken_scratch) found this out first hand when Google decided to lock his account for no immediately obvious reason.
Imagine a situation where you rely on an smartphone running Android, rely on Google’s services for online communication and data storage, and have spent a significant amount of money on purchasing Google services and products. Then it is all taken away from you automatically and without warning.
Donovan’s ordeal played out over three weeks and began with an email from Google claiming “potential suspicious activity” on his account, which also resulted in the account being locked. A call to Google instructed Donovan to scan his driving license and credit card to verify his identity. The account remained locked and Google refused to share any further details as to why because, “It is our policy to not discuss the specific reasons for an account closure.”
Multiple calls to Google result in Donovan being told to accept the old account is permanently locked and to setup a fresh account. However, to do that requires a new credit card as Google will not accept the card linked to the locked account. It gets worse, though, as no data or purchased items can be transferred from the old to the new account, meaning everything is lost.
So why did Donovan lose access to his account? During another call to Google where a supervisor was on the line, Donovan mentioned moving cities recently. Apparently that’s enough to trigger an account lock. If an individual moves cities and their billing information no longer matches their address, purchases can be flagged as fraudulent. So unless you update all of your details on your Google account as soon as your living arrangements change, you are risking losing access to your account permanently.
Thanks to the Reddit, Google has now unlocked Donovan’s account stating, “To protect our customers from fraud and abuse, we routinely monitor account behavior on Google Play and take action on potentially suspicious activity. Unfortunately, in your case, your account was wrongly flagged and suspended.”
Forgetting to update account details is a very easy mistake for anyone to make, but ultimately the blame here lies with Google. There should be a way to verify your identity and unlock the account, otherwise how can you ever trust your data to Google when a single mistake can lock access to it forever?