Pokémon Go shadow bans: What they are and how to avoid and appeal them

What's a shadow ban in Pokémon Go? How do you stop it from happening to your account? If you've been shadow banned in error, how do you get it reversed? Let's dig in!

Pokémon Go is cracking down on accounts that try to access their API (application programming interface) illicitly and illegitimately. It's taking place in the form of a "shadowbox" and it's affecting some players. Here's what's going on!


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What's a Pokémon Go shadow ban?

A shadow ban, different than a soft ban, doesn't prevent you from playing. What it does is prevent you from seeing anything other than common spawns — Pidgey, Rattata, and the like. In other words, no Eevee, no Growlithe, and certainly no Snorlax, Dragonite, or Tyranitar for you.

Here's what Niantic Support had to say on Reddit:

We're committed to maintaining the state of Pokémon GO and our community of Trainers. People who violate the Pokémon GO Terms of Service (including by using third party software and other cheats) may have their gameplay affected and may not be able to see all the Pokémon around them. While we cannot discuss the systems implemented, we can confirm that we are constantly refining new ways to ensure the integrity of the game in order to keep it fun and fair for all Trainers.

How do you know if you've been shadow banned in Pokémon Go?

The shadow ban prevents you from seeing anything other than common Pokémon when playing Pokémon Go. So, for example, if you're standing with a friend and a rare Pokémon spawns for them but not for you, and that happens repeatedly, it's possible you've been shadow banned.

Why did Pokémon Go institute a shadow ban?

To prevent illicit access to, and abuse of, their application programming interface (API). That's the way the Pokémon Go app connects to the Pokémon Go servers to play the game, but it's also the way many of the more popular cheat sites and apps access them as well. That not only causes extra burden on the servers but creates an unfair advantage for people using the cheating sites and apps.

That's primarily translating into two types of activities:

  1. "Bots", which are programs that fake their way around the Pokémon Go universe, scanning Pokémon and Gyms for third-party maps and collecting high stat (IV), high power (CP) Pokémon so the accounts can later be sold on the black market.
  2. Automated IV-checkers, which are apps that ask for your Google account login so they can overlay or otherwise immediately show stats on all the Pokémon you catch.

Not only do these extra API calls add burden to Pokémon Go's servers, they provide features Pokémon Go doesn't want in the game and considers cheating.

Here's the text of the letter Pokémon Go is sending out to people who contact support about the shadow ban. via The Silph Road:

We're committed to maintaining the state of Pokémon GO and our community of Trainers. People who violate the Pokémon GO Terms of Service (including by using third party software and other cheats) may have their gameplay affected and may not be able to see all the Pokémon around them. While we cannot discuss the systems implemented, we can confirm that we are constantly refining new ways to ensure the integrity of the game in order to keep it fun and fair for all Trainers.

As long as you're abiding by the Pokémon GO Terms of Service and the Pokémon GO Trainer guidelines, there should not be any reason for concern.

Which automated IV-checking apps are triggering the shadow ban?

Any IV-checking app that asks for your Google account login can potentially trigger the ban. The app is asking for that access so it can use your account to contact the Pokémon Go servers and that's exactly the behavior the shadow ban was instituted to address.

Some apps that are known or suspected to trigger the shadow ban include:

  • IVFly
  • IV Go
  • AllG IV
  • Blossoms Pokemon Go Manager

What do you do if you're using one of those apps?

Stop! And do the following:

  1. Uninstall the app immediately.
  2. Change the password to your Pokémon Go account.
  3. Revoke permissions from the app

How do you change a Pokémon Go account password?

If you use Pokémon Trainer Club (PTC) for for your Pokémon Go account, you'll need to change your club account:

  1. Go to https://club.pokemon.com/us/pokemon-trainer-club/forgot-password
  2. Fill out the form to reset your password.
  3. When you get the email, click on the included link and complete the password change request.

If you use Google for your Pokémon Go account, you'll need to change your Google/Gmail password.

  1. Go to https://www.google.com/settings/passwordchange
  2. Sign in to your account using your existing password.
  3. Enter and confirm your new password.

Once you have your new Google password, you'll need to use it to log back into any of your Google services. Just don't give it to any more third-party IV-checker apps.

How do you revoke permissions for the IV-checker app?

Because of the way online authentication works with Google, access tokens can persist even if you change your password. To make sure you lock out third-party access immediately, you also need to revoke it's permission for your account.

  1. Go to https://myaccount.google.com/permissions
  2. Log into your Google account.
  3. Tap/click on the name of the IV-checker app in the list.
  4. Tap on Remove.

Can you be shadow banned for other reasons, like spoofing, multi- or alt-accounting, or anything else?

So far, shadow banning seems to be a completely automated process and based only on API abuse. Other types of abuse might get an account soft or permanently banned, but not shadow banned.

What if you've already been shadow banned? Can it be reversed?

If you've already been shadow banned and can't see anything other than common spawns, there's a couple things you can do.

First, make sure you've removed any app or service that could be abusing the Pokémon Go API through your account. There's some indication that shadow bans, like soft bans, aren't permanent and, if your account resumes normal activity, could become un-banned in a few days or a week.

Second, if you feel like you've been banned in error, you can contact Pokémon Go's developer, Niantic, and submit a request for help:

  1. Go to https://support.pokemongo.nianticlabs.com/hc/en-us/requests/new?ticket_form_id=233187
  2. Enter your trainer name (the exact name on your account) and email address.
  3. Explain your situation.
  4. Hit Submit.

Is there any way to get around the shadow ban or catch rate Pokémon while waiting for the ban to lift or be reversed?

Even though you can't see all Pokémon when you're shadow banned, you can still catch them if you have a Pokémon Go Plus accessory.

The downside, of course, is that Pokémon Go Plus costs ~$50 and only shoots a single Poké Ball, with no option berries.

The odds of catching a Blissey or Snorlax, much less a Dragonite or Tyranitar with a single Poké Ball is incredibly small.

Still, it's better than nothing, which is what the shadow ban imposes.

Any questions about Pokémon Go shadow bans?

If you have any questions about shadow bans in Pokémon Go or if you have experiences with the ban to share, please drop them in the comments below!