Last summer, we reported that an alarming number of iPhone users were receiving bans in Pokémon GO despite following the app's rules. At the time, it was thought that "thousands" of accounts had been impacted, causing developer Niantic to acknowledge and investigate claims that its systems were operating incorrectly.
Now, it appears that a similar issue is happening once again. In recent weeks, more and more cases of players receiving a 'First Strike' ban have started to appear on social media platforms such as Reddit, where players – specifically on iPhone – are reporting that they're being handed out these bans despite doing no wrong. In some cases, they report receiving the First Strike ban over and over again, making them believe that there's some sort of bug plaguing Niantic's cheat detection system.
"I was given a [first] strike ban last week," one Reddit user explains. "I attempted to appeal it to no success. For some reason I feel like the people at Niantic support had no interest in helping me, or they were just a bunch of bots... This morning was supposed to be the end of my ban and I was pretty excited to start catching Pokémon again. My ban was lifted for about an hour or so, UNTIL I got to work and opened the app and saw that I had ANOTHER First Strike Ban."
Replies to these online threads suggest that plenty of players are experiencing similar issues, with many accusing Niantic's customer support of being "worthless" or "useless" when they've asked for their case to be reviewed. One player who did manage to escape from these ongoing bans was @whyldegamer, a prominent Pokémon GO player who was contacted by Niantic directly following pressure from their community.
The First Strike ban is intended to be given out to players who use modified or third-party software to 'cheat' in-game, and while this is important for keeping players on a level playing field and for punishing those who violate the app's terms, something certainly needs to be done if innocent players are being unfairly banned from the game. Here's hoping Niantic responds to player concerns soon.
Thanks to Zabdiel for reaching out to us!