Gmail Account Disabled, How to Reinstate?
April 4, 2016 6:23 AM   Subscribe

I have used gmail for my domain's email for over ten years now. Last Thursday morning my account (which was the administrator on the domain) was disabled. The exact message is "Google has detected unusual activity related to your account and temporarily disabled it." I submitted a support form, and got back a response saying to contact my domain administrator (which, as I said, is the account that was disabled.) A second submission yielded a response that basically said, "It's under review, don't bug us again." Online searches for ways to resolve this are not giving me much hope. Can anyone offer some solid advice?

Things of note:
1. I was not doing anything that I know of that would violate terms of service. I was not sending high volumes of email, or anything malicious.
2. This email address has been my primary email identity since 1997, it is the main way anyone who knows me would contact me. I have Ten years of archived emails that I cannot access. When I try to look at any email in my client from before the suspension, it will not open and gives an error that my password is incorrect.
3. I have temporarily routed around the damage by changing my domain's MX records to use my web host mail and created a corresponding account there. So I am now receiving emails again. But there are four days of emails I have not seen that went to Gmail, and as I said I no longer have access to a full decade of archived emails.

What do I do next?
posted by Lokheed to Technology (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is your url joeschmo@gmail.com or joeschmo@company.com? If the latter, perhaps the gmail service was originally provided through a company other than Google, which has recently changed its relationship with them? In which case, I would contact that company, not Google.
posted by xammerboy at 7:44 AM on April 4, 2016


You might try asking for help on HackerNews - sometimes it’s possible to reach out to a Google employee unofficially there.

Was it a paid Google services account for the domain? You should have some extra possible contacts to try in that case I think.
posted by pharm at 8:16 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


That wouldn't be a URL, that'd be an e-mail address, and it's clearly not "@gmail.com" if he was able to redirect the MX.

Are you paying for the domain mail service? If so, there should be some path for support available to you.

If you aren't, then that opens up a bunch of issues, because free services typically have very little incentive to resolve problems like this, and may not even be able to verify that you are the person who opened the account. It doesn't mean you won't be able to re-establish control, but it might be difficult.

Once you've re-established control, give a lot of thought to how to recover access to your Google account, such as linking it to your cell phone, an ISP-provided e-mail address, etc.
posted by jgreco at 8:16 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Your account was disabled probably because it got hacked. You may have adware/spyware on a computer used to access the account, or they got the credentials some other way. As you're unable to login to the account, you'll probably unfortunately have to wait until google looks into it and gets back to you, especially if this was a free domain email thing. In the mean time, it'd probably be a good idea to make sure that you don't have some sort of yuckyware infection.
posted by destructive cactus at 9:03 AM on April 4, 2016


The latest edition of the Mike Tech Show podcast covered this.

Mike solved this problem for a client by:

1. Submiting this web form: https://support.google.com/a/contact/admin_no_access

2. Phoning 866-628-1366 then selecting opt1:support and then opt2: no pin

I think you'll have to supply a reference number generated by the form to whomever you speak with on the phone.

Hope this works!
posted by sockpup at 9:07 AM on April 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


To answer detail questions:

This is Google Apps for Domains account that was set up back when that was a free service. If I were to set up the same thing today it would be a paid service, but this account was grandfathered in when they went to a paid model.

I don't believe the account was hacked. First, because I use a password manager to generate strong passwords, and use a different password everywhere, so it would be an extremely difficult password to crack. Second, because there is another email address in use on the same domain (but not an administrator account) that continues to function.

I believe the triggering event was that, I use that email address as the From email on the associated domain website, which has a user registration system that requires new users to validate their account by entering their email address and then clicking a confirmation link in an email that is generated by the website. I noticed that morning that there were several undeliverable emails bouncing back to me that were almost certainly from spam user registrations on the website. I think Google's automated heuristics saw that as spamming activity from that email account and shut it down accordingly. The website itself has not been compromised, and I am dealing with the spam registration issue.

I will try sockpup's recommendation and see where that gets me.

Thank you for your suggestions so far!
posted by Lokheed at 9:30 AM on April 4, 2016


Here's the contact info for Google Apps support. (I do the same thing you do with my personal mail).
posted by cnc at 10:25 AM on April 4, 2016


cnc - I tried calling that number. To get anywhere, you need a PIN. To get a pin, you need to log in. It's pretty much the equivalent of "I can't get on the network", "Well, log in and send me an email to create the ticket..."
posted by Lokheed at 11:25 AM on April 4, 2016


Have the person who still has access generate the ticket and the pin.
posted by AugustWest at 12:11 PM on April 4, 2016


Sockpup is the winner!

I submitted the form from the page he linked to, and about an hour later I got a phone call from a very nice woman at Google. She reminded me that there was *another* superuser account, about which I had entirely forgotten. I was able to log in with that account, reinstate my main account, and then make the appropriate security changes (password change, two factor authentication, etc.)

I had just about given up all hope, but now I am back in.

Sockpup, I owe you a very nice drink.
posted by Lokheed at 12:35 PM on April 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Now that you're back up and running, you might want to use google takeout to download a backup of all your old email in case anything like this ever happens again.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 1:04 PM on April 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yes, this is a salutary reminder that Google can and will dump everything they store for you down the memory hole if their systems think that you are fucking with them.

Backups aren’t just for local storage - you need backups of your cloud data as well.
posted by pharm at 2:05 PM on April 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Pharm - I actually have nightly backups of all of my home computers to a central home server and then weekly backups of that (plus things like all of our archived photos) out to an offsite backup. I thought I had myself covered, and it never occurred to me to also specifically backup my email. Lesson learned.
posted by Lokheed at 2:21 PM on April 4, 2016


You’re doing better than I am then!

That is the trouble with disaster recovery - you only discover the thing you’ve forgotten to back up when you actually need it.
posted by pharm at 3:44 AM on April 5, 2016


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