Tech Support Q: Cannot access and manage Google Fi dashboard due to inaccessible email address

Hi all,

It’s been a good while since I’ve been to the SDMB and man, things sure have changed! It’s good to see some familiar faces here still.

I have had a nasty bit of trouble with Google lately, and all attempts to resolve it have failed. Well, not only have they failed, but I’ve been met with quite a bit of rudeness and judgment based on my question. The question is a bit detailed with backstory, so I’m going to separate parts of this post with headers for ease of reading and the TL;DR crowd.

If you’re willing to help, I applaud you and will respond with as much detail as possible. I just ask that suspend any assumptions that I have done anything nefarious. I’m just a guy who wants his online life back.


Back in September, I bought 2TB worth of Google Drive space in order to back up an external hard drive. I felt comfortable that any files I had were secure on Google, so instead of zipping the drive into a passworded archive, I simply uploaded the folders one at a time. About two days later, I found my Google account was logged out and it asked me to put my password in again to “verify that it’s me.” Weird, but okay. I put in my password and received a simple message: Account disabled. It looks like this account was used in a way that seriously violated Google’s policies.

A link was provided for me to ask them to review the account, which contained a single form to provide any explanation and a Submit button. I wrote that I have no idea why the account was suspended. I have reviewed Google’s TOS and found absolutely nothing that I could be doing that would be a violation of their policies.

Two days later, I received an email on my alternate Google account that the account was reviewed and was indeed “found to have been used in a way that violates Google’s policies.” There is no recourse. No one I can speak to. The email account I’ve been using for everything since 2006 is just gone. No warnings, no explanations.

The problem

Losing almost 15 years worth of emails, photos, links, bookmarks, Drive contents, web history, and Play Store purchases was absolutely heartbreaking, and I still haven’t quite gotten over it. However, the problem recently got worse.

I use Google Fi for my wireless service on a phone I purchased from Google. Last week, I finally made the decision to remove my suspended email account from my phone since it was preventing any apps from updating in the Play Store. Once I did, my phone went bonkers. Google Fi logged me out, giving me a perpetual notification of “Google Fi not fully activated.” When I click that notification, it tries to set me up as a new user.

Fortunately, I can still make and receive calls. I cannot, however, access my voicemail or my account dashboard. Google is still charging my bank account, though.

Thus, I’m stuck in a catch-22. I need my old credentials to log into my Fi account, but I no longer have access to that account. And since I can’t log in, I can’t change the email address.

I have had my phone number since 2003 (it was originally a Verizon number). I am very worried that Google will decide to cancel the account for some reason and my number will be lost forever. Aside from everything being attached to this number, I cannot ask my 84-year-old father with dementia to memorize or keep track of a new one.

The requests

  1. Is there any way for me to change my email address on the Google Fi account in question? I feel like I’ve run out of avenues to speak with them, but maybe you know something I don’t.

  2. Failing #1, I am respectfully requesting step-by-step directions on how I can transfer my phone number to another service, preferably Verizon. Ideally, I would like to create a new Google Fi account and transfer it back (they’re way cheaper than any other service). I believe that starting a wireless account with another provide has the new provider pulling the phone number, but I wanted to be sure before I do that.

  • Subquestion: If I go ahead and try to activate a new account through the Google Fi phone app, can I simply transfer my old phone number to the new account?
  1. If there’s any way in the universe that you know how to convince Google to let me re-access to my old Google Account (the disabled one), I would be forever in your debt.

Attempted support avenues thus far

  1. Called 844-TALK-2-FI. Google has suspended their Fi phone support “due to COVID-19 and for the safety of our employees.” I have no idea how having phone support is unsafe, but whatever.

  2. Tried support chat with my girlfriend’s phone to get the email address changed on the Google Fi account. The rep said there was nothing he could do without me being logged in (you have to log into the account to get technical support on the account, which blows my mind). Anyway, he suggested–and get this–I call my bank and freeze future payments to Google! That was my only option, according to him.

  3. Tried the Google support community. They told me I’m SOL.

  4. Asked for another account review and begged Google to let me rectify whatever offense they think I committed. No response.

  5. Tried Reddit /r/techsupport. They told me they don’t assist with transferring cell phone accounts.

This was an incredibly long post and I am appreciative of anyone who reads it and is willing to help me out. Thank you very much in advance. Again, I will offer any non-personal details I can if requested.

What happened to your external hard drive ?

Nothing. It just has stuff that I don’t want to lose, like all of my college and grad school work. I was just doing a simple backup for safety.

oh. sorry, i thought that was the “almost 15 years worth of emails, photos, links, bookmarks, Drive contents, web history, and Play Store purchases” you copied to the 2TB Google drive.

Ahh, my apologies for the lack of clarity. The Google account in question is what contained almost 15 years worth of matter. It is that account that I bought the 2TB of drive space on so I could upload my external HD.

You have my sympathy. That sounds like quite a pickle, to put it mildly. If Google has suspended the account and won’t talk to you about the reason, you might be stuck. Depending on how much you care to pursue it, you might want to get a lawyer involved. I don’t imagine you could force Google to turn the account back on, but maybe you could recover your content, or at least get some explanation.

This may be more practical, but I’m not certain. Go here and check whether your phone number is eligible for transfer. It almost certainly is. However, even if it is, you run the risk that Google will refuse to let it go without the account owner’s consent. Normally, you’d get the information you need when you cancel your Google Fi service. And Verizon usually won’t let you initiate the transfer until you sign up for service.

Can you even cancel your service at this point, or is the account so brutally disabled that you can’t even tell Google that you give up?

In your shoes, I might just walk into a Verizon store, explain the situation, and tell the person working there that you want to sign up for an account, but only if they can successfully transfer the number. They might not agree to your condition, but if you can get far enough to initiate the transfer, you’ll put Verizon techs in touch with Google techs and they might be able to work it out behind the scenes in ways you can’t. It’s even possible that Google will simply give up the number since the account is permanently locked.

If you have trouble with the transfer, that’s also another point to bring up with a lawyer if it comes to that. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and accompanying FCC regulations require Google to give up your number and I don’t think they can refuse just because they don’t like the contents of your hard drive. But I’m not a lawyer, and don’t know what’s in the legalese you clicked through when you signed up.

If you just stop paying Google, it’s likely that your number will be released for reassignment. Typically, numbers are left unassigned for 90 days, but this can be much shorter for high-demand area codes. The cool-down period is so that when reassigned, the new owner doesn’t immediately get flooded with calls for the previous owner. I am not certain whether a number can be pulled out of the cool-down pool early at a customer’s request, but it seems to me that it should be possible. Obviously, this approach carries some risk that the number will be released and reassigned before you can request it.

Good luck!

This is exactly what I’ve been hoping for! Thank you so much!

It’s that brutally disabled. Everything is tied to your Google account… it’s like your account number. If that goes, everything goes with it, it seems. I can’t even contact them to cancel.