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Why Was My (Google) Account Disabled?

You have entered a birthday indicating you are not old enough to have a Google Account.

The above snippet is from a Google help document. You can find it here. I say it’s a “help” document, but when you’re done with my post, you can tell me whether it is deserving of the name. Now I’ll tell you straight up that this is part sad story and part how-to.

If you want to skip the sad story, scroll down to the “How to Change an Incorrect Birth date in Google Apps.”

If you don’t have a Google apps account, you won’t be able to use the how-to. Sorry about that.  You’ll just have to read the sad story and cry a few tears for those poor young fools in the same predicament as I was today.

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Here’s the sad Google story:

One of my jobs, when not teaching search engine workshops at the Search Engine Academy, is to work with an SEO Agency in Las Vegas.  At this agency, Horizon Web Marketing, we manage a number of different services under team-accessible email accounts. One of these accounts is info at horizonwebmarketing dot com (username Horizon Information). We use that account to manage, for example, our Google Places page for Horizon Web Marketing (which serves the local Las Vegas area in addition to a broader, national audience of customers).

Somehow, in the process of accidentally wandering into the Google+ Profile setup, which is a constant link in your Google account dashboard, the birth date of the “Horizon Information” account was modified. The result was that Google not only thought that Horizon Information was a human being, but also was one who was younger than 13.

Now, Google may not do a good job of keeping perverts from seeking out inappropriate images of people under 13 (you can read my rant on this here), but they do an awesome job of keeping out a company that accidentally identified themselves as under 13. When you try to log in and you’re “under 13” you get redirected to this page.  Here’s a screenshot:

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Now, I’ll save you the trouble of reading it, and I will give you the recommended path you take if you are mistakenly identified as under 13 in order to correct the problem.

  1. Try to sign into your account
  2. Follow the instructions you get
  3. You see that the instructions you get are the ones at the link above, which tell you to…
  4. Sign into your Google account, then…
  5. Follow the instructions you get. At which point, you see…
  6. The instructions that you just read, which tell you to…
  7. Try to sign into Google…
  8. Rinse and repeat.  Endlessly.

In programming we call this an infinite loop. In common parlance you could call it an epic fail.

Now if you only have a private Google Gmail account, at this point you will have to try to contact Google because I have no other advice to offer you (and if anyone reading this found the magic method, please post in comments).

However, if you let it go for 30 days or so, they will delete your account and tell you it can NEVER be recovered.  Sadly, our deleted account had gone more than 30 days without being restored. This was bad news. We couldn’t access our Google Places account, Adwords account, nothing.

My research turned up no help, so I returned to the “help” document above and found this hopeful line: “If you are a Google Apps user, you should go to accounts.google.com in order to re-enable your account.”   What they don’t tell you is that you need to sign in as the Apps administrator.

It was now 40 days after the wrong date was set, so I feared that Google had already deleted the account, never to be seen again. But ( oh joy!) once I switched the filter to “suspended accounts” (see screenshot) I was able to see the “under 13” culprit.

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If you’ve worked with Google Apps before you probably know that you can suspend an email user and restore them with just a click. So I was certain I had my problem solved. Not so fast. If your account was suspended by Google for being under-age, you can NOT simply restore it. It will give you a warning, and connect you with, yep, you guessed it, the same help document that sent me into my infinite loop.

No amount of looking found a way to change the birth date. But with the help of Omar, a very nice Google support rep (yes, I gave up and resorted to the phone), I found the way.

So here it is:

How to change an incorrect birth date in Google Apps

It’s not too difficult if you know what you’re doing and accept the fact that it is TOTALLY NOT INTUITIVE.

Sign into your Google Apps admin account (and by the way, why isn’t this accessible from “Products” in my Google Account dashboard when I’m logged in as the Administrator??? Why???).  If you forgot how to get there, go to http://admin.google.com.

Your dashboard (uh, why is it called a “console” here?) looks like this next screen capture:

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Now click on the “More controls” option at the bottom. Once you do, here’s what you’ll see:

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When you reveal the “More controls” you will be able to select “Other Google Services” (and why can’t Google decide how they want to capitalize menu descriptions?? – I’m really on a rant here, aren’t I?).

Once you penetrate “Other Google Services,” scroll down until you see Google+. Notice the “premium features” link. Click on it. Then enable premium features.

You might ask why you need to enable “Premium Features” to change a user’s birth date. Shut up! This is Google. You don’t ask questions! Once you have enabled Premium Features you now can navigate all the way back to users, click on the HUGE profile link, and…ta-daaaa…you will see an option to change an incorrect birth date on the right.

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One more dialog box to go. See below.

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Set the date to make the age anything over 13, and now, finally, at last, you are able to restore your suspended user. And not a moment too soon. You might at this point be wondering if it wouldn’t be quicker to just let the young child reach the age of 13 naturally, and I wondered that myself.

Finally, Horizon Information, changed to its true age of 54 years (don’t ask me how I came up with that age) is restored to the fold. OK, you have the story and the how-to. Have fun.

It’s a Googley world and the rest of us are just along for the ride.