Hi! My name is Daniel Lim Jhao Jian. Here is where I share my experience, knowledge and ideas. You are welcome to leave comments and follow my blog. You are free to copy anything from this blog. Please recommend this blog to your friends.

Friday 23 July 2021

Issues with my Google account

There have been some drama going on with my Google account.

I had always refused to enable 2-step verification for my Google account. I found it inconvenient and I was sure that my account would be safe as long as I don't give out my password to anyone. Most importantly, I was worried that if I were to lose my phone, 2-step verification would prevent me from using Find My Device to locate my phone, as I wouldn't have my phone for the sign-in process. Unlike Apple, Google doesn't allow you to bypass 2-step verification for Find My Device.

Problems started in mid-April 2021. At that time, I received an email stating that my Google Ads ID had been suspended due to suspicious activity, and another email stating that I had successfully set up a video ad on Google Ads. Google Ads is a service where users pay Google to do advertising for them. Since I definitely don't use Google Ads, I thought those emails were just spam. In the following days, I received several more emails with similar content. I then realised that the emails were sent from Google itself so they couldn't be fake.

I did some checking and found out that a total of 20 Google Ads IDs had been created under my Google account without my knowledge! Some of those Google Ads IDs had been suspended due to suspicious activity, but the rest were still active and had accumulated charges ranging from RM30 to RM150 for each account. Worse still, as I had added my debit card to Google Pay for my previous purchases on the Google Play Store, those Google Ads charges were ready to be charged to my debit card anytime!

Someone must have gained unauthorised access to my Google account and created those Google Ads IDs. Strangely enough, when I checked the login history for my Google account, there were no logins other than those from my own devices. All my devices have passcodes and I never let anyone use them. I really had no idea how it all happened. I immediately changed my Google account password and enabled 2-step verification.

I tried removing my debit card from Google Pay before it could be charged, but I couldn't as there were outstanding charges for Google Ads. I also couldn't disable the Google Ads IDs as the Google Ads user interface is really complicated. I had to report the whole issue through Google Ads help center. There was no live chat available and the only option was to fill up an online form. The form asked for the Google Ads ID, where I could only key in 1 ID, but I explained in the main text that there were 20 IDs in total.

The Google Ads support team replied me a few days later, but only for the 1 Google Ads ID where I filled up in the online form. They disabled that ID and stated that I would not be charged anything for it. I then asked about the other 19 Google Ads IDs. They promised to get back to me in a few days, but they didn't do so. Later, I managed to navigate through the Google Ads user interface and cancel all of the Google Ads IDs. After that, I was able to remove my debit card from Google Pay. I thought the whole issue was over.

Some of the cancelled Google Ads IDs still had outstanding balances, which were still showing up in Google Pay. I didn't bother about that since my debit card was no longer linked to Google Pay. However on 8 May, RM34 was charged to my debit card for 1 of the cancelled Google Ads IDs. That meant I surely would be charged for the other Google Ads IDs as well, which would be several hundred ringgits in total. I immediately called my bank to block my debit card and request a chargeback for the RM34.

After I got a new debit card, I did not add it to Google Pay as I was worried that the outstanding balances for Google Ads would be charged to my new card. Later, I wanted to buy a custom domain for this blog. Among the domain providers, I felt that Google Domains is the best as it is cheap, reliable and can be integrated with Blogger easily. However, I couldn't make the payment for Google Domains without adding my debit card to Google Pay.

I wanted to know whether I would be charged for those cancelled Google Ads IDs if I add my debit card to Google Pay, so I seek help through Google Pay help center. Live chat was available, but only for Google Play developers. Although I have an app on the Google Play Store, the system somehow couldn't recognise it and wouldn't let me access the live chat. I had to go to the live chat for Google Play Store help center and ask them to connect me to Google Pay help center, which they reluctantly did.

The Google Pay support team told me that since my issue is with Google Ads, I should contact Google Ads help center. I argued that since the outstanding balances were showing up in Google Pay, it should be their job to do something. They insisted that they couldn't help me with that, and they couldn't give me an answer on whether the balances would be charged to my new card if I add it to Google Pay. As the Google Ads help center doesn't have live chat, they couldn't connect me to it.

I had no choice but to go to Google Ads help center and fill up the online form. Once again, the form asked for the Google Ads ID and I keyed in 1 of the cancelled Google Ads IDs. A day later, the Google Ads support team replied me that the Google Ads ID I keyed in was invalid and asked me to provide a valid ID. I then sent them a screenshot proving the existence of the 20 Google Ads IDs. Despite that, they insisted that none of the IDs were valid and asked me to provide a valid Google Ads ID.

I reiterated that all those Google Ads IDs had been cancelled but still had outstanding balances. I told them that instead of arguing about the validity of the IDs, they should just answer my question on whether those balances would be charged if I add my new card to Google Pay. They claimed that for security reasons, they must verify the validity of the IDs before they could proceed. They suggested that I create a new Google account if I am concerned about the outstanding balances and told me to fill up the online form again if I had further questions.

Creating a new Google account is definitely not an option for me, as I am using my current account for so many online services. At that time, I found a number to phone Google Ads support. However, the person I spoke to said that her job is only to help users set up their Google Ads campaigns. She insisted that she couldn't help me with my case and that my only option was to fill up the online form on Google Ads help center. I complained to her about how unhelpful the help center is, but she replied that there was nothing she could do about it.

Outraged by that, I filled up the online form once more. This time, I stated clearly that all of the Google Ads IDs had been cancelled so they most probably would be invalid. I also attached several screenshots to the form to prove that all those IDs were linked to my Google account. The support team got back to me, repeating that the Google Ads IDs were invalid and that I had to provide a valid ID. They added that they would not accept screenshots for verification.

It's clear that the Google support team isn't going to help me no matter what, simply because they won't make money from that. The amount of money I would pay for Google Domains is simply too insignificant for Google. Google is only interested in earning big money from Google Ads and Youtube Premium. Google has been nagging me to subscribe for YouTube Premium at a ridiculous price of 12 USD per month! For users who don't pay for that, Google shows more and more disgusting ads and denies them the most basic feature of background music playback.

Later, I managed to close down my Google Pay profile, which erased all of the outstanding balances from Google Pay. However, it stated that I would still be responsible for those balances. The question is if I create a new Google Pay profile and add my debit card to it, will those outstanding balances be charged to my card? There's no point for me to ask Google Pay or Google Ads support about that. Instead, I have decided that I will never add my debit card to Google Pay or buy anything from Google again.

I decided to buy my blog domain from Namecheap. It is cheaper than Google Domains, and although it has to be linked to Blogger manually, it's user interface is quite user friendly. I am currently using a Google Pixel 2 phone, but I intend to get a new phone within the next year, and my next phone will definitely be an iPhone. After I get an iPhone, I will never have to use the Google Play Store again. I am also using AdBlock Plus when browsing the internet to get rid of all ads from Google.

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