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.
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:
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.
- Try to sign into your account
- Follow the instructions you get
- You see that the instructions you get are the ones at the link above, which tell you to…
- Sign into your Google account, then…
- Follow the instructions you get. At which point, you see…
- The instructions that you just read, which tell you to…
- Try to sign into Google…
- 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.
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:
Now click on the “More controls” option at the bottom. Once you do, here’s what you’ll see:
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.
One more dialog box to go. See below.
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.
Great post Ross! Sorry you had to experience it though. There is so going on now with COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) that it’s causing issues like this and worse to happen. Kudos to you for figuring out how to recover!
Glad you enjoyed the post, Cindy. And yes, it’s sort of a HIPAA situation: the natural consequence of so many invasions of privacy and predatory practices.
WOW Ross! I love all the hoops you have to jump through to change your age? Yikes, what a nightmare. How much time do you think you spent in all trying to track down how to fix the problem and then actually make the fix?
Too bad you can’t bill Google for that time huh?
@Steve, the whole mess blew 2-3 hours out of my day. Plus one of our staff had spent a couple of hours trying to figure it out. Don’t get me going about Google. Grinding my teeth at them more ever day. Funny how having a monopoly on the international flow of data can go to a company’s head.
Ross, you get hero of the week status for this. I’m the IT end for a k-12 and this google issue has plagued me from day one; hoping the student remembered their password (no reset option), and then a CC charge to re-activate (can’t wait on snail mail when their school assignments are tied to their account access) has proven a nightmare. Many is the time I wished I had a google throat to grab in my office. Your fix, utterly non-intuitive but beautifully easy has made for smooth sailing. (fix the age, unlock the account, lock G+ down) Two wishes, first have a FANTASTIC day/year/life you’ve made mine much easier, second I hope that google gets this to the top of its search instead of burying it.
Thanks so much for the kind words, Steven. I’ve often wanted a Google throat to grab, so I can relate. Glad this was useful.
Thanks so much for this article, I was tearing my hair our yesterday with this exact problem! One question though:
“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.”
How do I sign in as the Apps admin?
Any help would be much appreciated!
You need to know the email address and password of any user who has been designated an admin on the account. That might involve some old-fashioned detective work. Failing that you can use Google’s wizard for lost access (explore this page: https://support.google.com/a/topic/14588?hl=en&ref_topic=2425090), which includes as a last resort a way to fill out a recovery form (https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/183733).
I hope this helps.
I too am having the same problem. I made a user for a blog in a project I and my mates were involved in, so officialy it was a private user. Sometime someone came up to a great idea of changing the birthdate of the the user to the one of the project, thus making the user less than 4 years old. Ofcourse, the account is now blocked.
Now, in case we do not have anyone designated an admin on the account, is there any other way of recovering the account (tried the last resort thing – didn’t work. Even tried the infinite loop, not much use either…)
Basically, the account itself is useless, but perhaps there is a way of somehow recovering the blog (it is needed in the project?) Or is there anything that could be done furthermore?
Thanks for all the help!
@Heinz, I’m really sorry but I’m not aware of another approach to this, but I invite any readers who might have some insight to contribute. If you have an AdWords account you might try hitting up their technical support. Sometimes they can solve problems not directly related to AdWords.
Okay, I had a problem where I kept trying to create a new gmail account, but it was telling me I was too young (I’m 25), but found a much easier solution. If you access google through Incognito mode, you can create a new account without getting blocked. Just press Ctrl Shift N in Chrome and it will open Incognito mode.
Tahlia, thanks for sharing.
I was trying to create a new gmail account for my business (I have four personal/business accounts with them). Your article on getting locked out of gmail for wrong birth year is the closest thing I can find to my issue. Entered wrong birth year when setting up, and it threw out the request, and is now blocking me from even trying to create a new account.
wtf?????????? There’s really no way to send them a ticket because they don’t recognize the problem. Totally pissed!!!
@John. I feel your pain, but I haven’t encountered the exact same problem as you. I understand that you set up an account, used the wrong birth year, and now it won’t let you log in even though you have the correct username and password. Is that correct?
I too was recently editing the primary admin email account for our google business/domain emails and accidentally set the age to the wrong birthday due to serious lag and response delays because of a terribly slow internet connection. Well, not only did that account get suspended, but the admin email is tied to our primary company website via services through Wix and Google Business Emails. Now my entire website is down, as well as the m. sub domain, and every browser gives me a ‘ERR_NAME_NOT_RESOLVED’ error message everytime I try to open the company website… Unbelievable. I fixed the birthday associated with the admin email account but the site is still giving me the same error. Does it take a little while for it to address the DNS issue with the company website associated with the admin Email suspension? Our entire company relies on this website as it’s primary mode of revenue which means the entire company is shutdown because of one accidental click of the mouse.
Sorry to hear of your troubles. It’s so frustrating to have a single mouse click jeopardize an entire business. It can often take 24-48 hours for DNS issues to resolve. I hope that’s the only problem you still face at this point. Good Luck!
I have a better suggestion… how about leaving gmail to play with themselves and using another email provider instead?
I spend half a day trying to sign in from a laptop using firefox
Does anyone know how to change my sons birthday year on gmail? He is 13 but I dont have a valid ID for him nor does he have a credit card. He is blocked from doing a lot of things on his phone now because of this. He has games that he doesnt want to lose but he cant even buy something from the playstore becuase of this. Any help is much appreciated.