Gmail Disables User Accounts Without Reason Or Warning

UPDATE: Gmail says they accidentally disabled a huge swatch of user accounts in an attempt to fight a large spammer network, and is actively reinstating these accounts.

Gmail is the best email system in the world but many users experience great frustration after getting their accounts disabled for no apparent reason.

There are actually a couple of reasons, like logging in from multiple locations quickly, or sending mail to many people in a short period of time – basically anything that makes you look like a spammer.

Recently, we finally convinced our girlfriend to switch from earthlink crapola to Gmail. A day later, she was locked out, and very, very, very, pissed. We suspect that the change of address email she sent to 165 or so people might have triggered the action, but really, that seems like a small number, and how else does Google think people are supposed to “make the switch?”

If your account gets locked out like this, you can file a report here. Reinstatement are said to usually occur with 24 hours, but that’s small solace for people running their job, lives, or brain from their Gmail.

It’s probably no coincidence that the uptick lockout complaints corresponds to the time that Google opened up Gmail for registration without invitation.

Lifehacker offers two options for Gmail backup, using fetch or Thunderbird. — BEN POPKEN


Edit Your Comment

  1. healthdog says:

    Nooooo! This cannot happen to me. I would lose my freaking mind.

  2. OnceWasCool says:

    I love the idea if it will stop all those suckers that keep forwarding all those feel-good emails.

    Just because it says “Forward to all your friends”, don’t think your friends will love you for it if you do.

    I just forward them, along with spam to the FTC’s email

  3. closer says:

    whats a good easy way to back up all those emails automatically?

    perhaps to somewhere offsite aka not my home computer. would yahoo allow me to do a pop3 download every few hours automatically of my gmail account?


  4. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Here’s a corny idea.. Use Evite or similar services to notify everyone of your new e-mail address. For people that have hundreds of contacts in their address book, this might be a good way to get the message out without appearing to look like a spammer to your e-mail provider or ISP.

  5. nomad73 says:

    @ closer
    just use Thunderbird and set it to POP all your Gmail down to your machine every few minutes/hours/days. Then, periodically backup your email folder.

  6. timmus says:


    Heh, what a joke that address is. I bet there’s only one guy there and he’s starting on the January 1995 reports.

  7. Skylar says:

    “we finally convinced our girlfriend”

    I always say, sharing is caring.

  8. dbeahn says:

    Personally, I always recommend you send your “change of address” spam (sing!) out from the account you’re *leaving*. For basically this reason – if you have any problems as a result, then who cares?

  9. spanky says:

    @oncewascool: Chain letters are annoying, but they’re not commercial email, so please don’t report them as such.

    @LatherRinseRepeat: Why not send notifications from your old email address? I don’t think it’s really appropriate to give someone’s email address to a third party like that. Even if you have decided that their TOS are acceptable to you, it’s not your decision to make for someone else. The last person who sent me one of those evite things is not allowed to have my email address anymore.

  10. mikesfree says:

    For a free service its pretty nice, but if you are running a business, you probably ought to be investing in something more reliable.

  11. OnceWasCool says:


    Just go to the website or google the email address and you will see.

    Yes they do actively have a break the chain campaign going on. Of course, if people continue to send that crap, reporting the abuse to their ISP is a great way to stop them. :)

  12. thrillhouse says:

    I used to get locked out of gmail. I finally figured out it was their own auto-notifier that was tripping it. that really sucked

  13. Hackoff says:

    That sucks big time! I haven’t been locked out yet, but two weeks ago I could log into my gmail account. It kept saying that there was an error and to try again in a few minutes.

    It was pretty lame not to be able to access my email.

  14. Papa K says:

    @mikesfree: I totally agree. It’s a free service – you get what you pay for. If Google decided tomorrow to drop gmail – they can (and piss people off). Running a business from a free email service is not smart – using it as a back up is smarter (i.e. have a copy of all emails sent to gmail, hotmail, yahoo, or whatever, so you’ve got a main business account and backups online).

  15. Jess A. says:

    This is off-topic, and I know it’s been brought up before, but seriously — what is the deal with the royal “we”? It’s an affectation that gets really grating post after post.

    I understand the style choice, I guess, since you guys want to look like a team/unit. But I think it’s a bad choice, particularly since you all have your own bylines.

  16. ARPRINCE says:

    @spanky QUOTE
    The last person who sent me one of those evite things is not allowed to have my email address anymore.

    I bet that person was your mother in-law! ;)

  17. dandyrandy says:

    Of course, you do remember that Gmail is in beta.



    It’s a convenient way to avoid providing any meaningful support for an app that could conceivably just disappear with no warning and no compunction on Google’s part.

  18. AcilletaM says:

    Google – Brilliant people making brilliant products making the same stupid-ass error handling mistakes as the not-good-enough-for-Google programmers they don’t hire.

  19. cheesyfru says:

    They did it to me just yesterday. I was using a Perl script to back up a folder of my mail (since they don’t allow you to download it directly). I got an error saying my account had been frozen for up to 24 hours. It was back within an hour, but my mind is busy trying to figure out an alternative service, now that they can’t be trusted. :(

  20. quagmire0 says:

    I’m not sure what everyone is complaining about. It seems to me that it is an issue that is not-too-common because it only happens when people do not-too-common things. 167 contacts? :o Does the average Joe have that many contacts in his gmail? Also, if it disturbs your business – guess what? You’re not PAYING for it! :) Anyway, feel good that they at least give you a link to reinstate. If it were Microsoft, you’d be SOL.

  21. MadMolecule says:

    @quagmire0: I have 339 contacts in my Gmail account.

  22. c-side says:

    Actually, this message was posted to the Gmail Help Discussion board ( at 2:12pm today:

    “We have been actively investigating a batch of accounts that were
    accidentally disabled and are currently in the process of re-enabling
    these accounts. This error occurred in an effort to target a large
    network of spammers to keep them out of the Gmail system and keep your
    inbox free from spam. We apologize for this inconvenience and
    appreciate your patience as we re-enable these accounts as quickly as

    Thanks ~
    Gmail Guide”

    So,the point is — they accidentally disabled/impaired/detained a bunch of people’s email accounts (hundreds, maybe thousands) while looking for terrorists…uh, I mean spammers Sound familiar?

    I know for a fact that several accounts have since been restored. Still, it doesn’t exactly instill confidence.

    I agree…”You get what you pay for.” is what my Dad always says. I’ll probably seek out a more reliable service, less power hungry service, myself.

  23. jennylynn says:

    I had a gmail account for over a year then lost it for no reason. Either somebody hacked it or they deleted it and somebody took the name. I did not send multi emails or use it from different locations. I complained to gmail for three months and heard nothing back. First of all it takes you forever to find the complaint area of the site. You keep getting questions and answers that lead to dead ends. Either they don’t know what they are doing or don’t care. I was using that account to apply for jobs so if it was hacked they have my info. I will never open another gmail account again.

  24. Matthew says:

    I thought the whole idea of Gmail was that bots read your mail so you get targeted advertisements alongside it. I wouldn’t have guessed Consumerist would be into that.