Handcuffed in Google Voice Jail.....don't do this.....

Real Estate Investor Marketing Help & Advice 17 Replies

I will start with what happened and then circle back to the beginning since it is a long story. Basically, I was suspended by Google from using Google Voice. I could not receive calls or send texts.

Also to keep the post from getting too lengthy, I will break it into two posts.....what happened before and what happened after.

WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE 

I use Google Voice on an Android/Windows platform as I assume several people on BP do. 

Despite the apparent confusion with Google's various platforms as far as voice/text messaging (SMS/MMS)/video calls go and the various incarnations they have gone through, I got in early with the native Google Voice and then integrated and moved to the Hangouts application when they presented that option.

So what I have is Google Voice as the background brain/command center but I do everything in Hangouts with the Hangouts App and the Hangouts Dialer. I hardly ever have to log in to the actual Google Voice interface. Hangouts handles voice/text messaging (SMS/MMS)/video calls on my phone, tablet and PC and everything syncs and works flawlessly. On my PC, Hangouts is available as an extension or app within the Google Chrome Browser. I have never used video calls or made voice calls on my PC though. I can send/receive texts on my PC though which is pretty convenient with a regular size keyboard. As an added bonus, Google Voice and my Hangouts integration are free.

I said all that to say this, I got into Google Voice early and never bought in to any of the changes (except integrating into Hangouts) so I am immune (for now) to the changes and restrictions imposed on new comers. As long as my Google Voice/Hangouts/Hangouts Dialer system works (and it does), it does everything I need it to do. I am thus content and I hope nothing changes anytime soon.

Without going into details, the various incarnations have been GChat, Project Fi, and most recently the spin-off of Hangouts into Allo and Duo (for consumers) and Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat (for enterprise). Allo is for messaging and Duo is for video calls for consumers. Hangouts Meet is for video meetings (up to 30 people) and Hangouts Chat is for text conversations and document sharing for enterprise teams.

Fortunately for me, apart from the enterprise upgrades, I can pretty much do everything in Hangouts and I am not being forced to change anything in the foreseeable future since I am "grandfathered in" you might say.

So, everything was going smoothly until I recently fired off 29 text messages in Hangouts on Android to some of my contacts that I had not communicated with in over 6 months and needed to catch up with. Basically, I wrote one message and copied and pasted the same message 28 times....only the first text message one was slightly different. I did not send a group text, I sent each text separately but did it all within 15-20 min. I could have sent 20-30 more but I did not since I was worn out after a long day and figured I would send the rest the next day.

When I got to it the next day, I had trouble sending the same copy and paste text to the 30th contact in Hangouts and it totally denied me the ability to send the text to the 31st. I tried and tried, closing and re-starting Hangouts but nothing worked. It simply would not send the same text to the 31st contact. I gave up and later that day, figured I should log in to the actual Google Voice interface on my PC and see what was up.

I was shocked to find out that I could log in to my google account, gmail, hangouts, basically every app I tried but when I tried to log in to the Google Voice app I was met with a message that said my access to the Google Voice app had been suspended. I tried to log in to the Google Voice app on my Android and could not. It slowly dawned on me that the system had interpreted my actions in sending the 28 similar texts in a short time-frame as a possible spammer and either flagged me and eventually suspended me from accessing the Google Voice app and the Hangouts app for outgoing texts and incoming calls.

Having had the Google Voice number for 3 plus years with no issues and having invested a lot into it, this was a sudden blow that I did not expect. 

Anthony M., Batch 21, LLC | [email protected] | 574‑208‑6865 | http://www.batch21.com

I assumed that anyone reading my first post was familiar with Google Voice which may not be the case.

Google Voice is a free service offered by Google, Inc. as part of the many apps that come with a Google account. It is available for both Android and iOS. When you sign up for Google Voice, you get to choose one phone number that you like from the many options of phone numbers it automatically offers you based on your criteria e.g. City, Zipcode.

One you have the phone number from Google Voice, you can make it your default phone number on your mobile phone using the Google Voice App. 

From here, you can distill as many phone numbers as you want to forward to or ring to your Google Voice number which will ring on your mobile phone. The idea is that if you have say three different phone numbers... a cell phone number, a business phone number and a home phone number, you can have one universal number that you can give out to people. 

Conversely, people dialing your three different numbers will always reach you on the one device you choose to install your Google Voice number on which would be your mobile phone.

If you prefer to keep your actual native mobile phone number issued by your carrier private, Google Voice is a great option. You just give people your Google Voice number instead.

In the real estate investor world, Google Voice would work for landlords, wholesalers, contractors, investors that fix and flip, property managers etc. There are many customizable options in the Google Voice interface one of which is the ability to block unwanted numbers from calling or texting your Google Voice number. Once you block someone, you have the option to unblock them if you choose to otherwise they are out of luck trying to contact you e.g. that annoying tenant that you just evicted or a caller you would just rather never hear from again.

Google recently made significant updates to Google Voice in January 2017 after laying dormant for almost 5 years and as far as I know has gotten good press from its users.

Even with the long delayed updates, it still worked great for me.

Anthony M., Batch 21, LLC | [email protected] | 574‑208‑6865 | http://www.batch21.com

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER - Part 1 

So after Google suspended me from Google Voice, I had to figure out why (which I had a pretty good idea why I was suspended) and what do I do now? I still had access to all my other Google services but I had been locked out of Google Voice.

Do I ignore this and hope it is a glitch that goes away? Do I log out and change my password and hopefully something will reset and I will have access again to my Google Voice account? Do I contact all the people that have my Google Voice number from a different number and tell them to contact me at my new number going forward?

There was one option that Google provided on the page I kept being re-directed to when I tried to log in to my Google Voice account. I was wary of the option and did not want to take it because it involved contacting Google on a form they provided on the page if I felt that my Google Voice access had been wrongfully suspended.

At the back of my mind, I could possibly recall reading somewhere more than once just how hard if not impossible it is to contact Google and actually get a response. Also, just the fear of the unknown.....how could I ....out of the possible one billion plus Google users.... make a case to hopefully change the mind of the mighty Google that already knows so much about me?

After giving it some thought, I decided to go for it and contact Google on the form they provided.

Anthony M., Batch 21, LLC | [email protected] | 574‑208‑6865 | http://www.batch21.com

@Anthony M. thank you for sharing this but I feel like this is an extreme case.  How many times have you sent 30 text messages in a row?  I've never run across the need for that, but that's just me.

I have iphone and started using google voice when I got a 'work phone' probably 4-5 years ago.  I moved my personal number into GV and pointed it to my work phone.  While it does have it's quirks, I will say I really do like it.  Recently my employer stopped paying for cell phones and now I still have my personal number that all my friends and family know.

Ive had the freedom to try new service providers and simply point my GV number each time.  So, for me it has been great.  

@Brad E. Thanks  for commenting.

Actually depending on what you are using Google Voice calling or text messaging for there may be instances where you may need to send multiple canned texts or responses. 

Granted not 30 text messages in row everyday but as I had stated, these were contacts that I had not communicated with in probably over 6 months and needed to get up to speed with all of them on something at the same time.

I can't tag him here but Filipe Pereira started a thread yesterday about how he screened 300+ tenants with  zero phone calls for free using a combo of Google Voice text and Google Forms and email as a Property Manager. You can follow that thread here: https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/476...

If you are marketing as a property manager, landlord, realtor, wholesaler, contractor etc. and you use Google Voice as your intake/response number, you may need to send multiple canned texts or responses. 

That said, if you have a marketing plan based on texting to the masses in large volumes....say up to 1,000 + texts a month, you are better served using a dedicated text blasting service vendor.

Obviously as I found out, Google Voice has controls in place that I was not aware of regarding their text messaging service.

Anthony M., Batch 21, LLC | [email protected] | 574‑208‑6865 | http://www.batch21.com

@Anthony M. I've run into this myself rather often on Google Voice. If you change enough words in the message so that the two messages aren't extremely similar, Google will allow you to keep texting. :)

So did you guys get it resolved?  I mean are you unlocked now?

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER - Part 2

Having weighed all my options, I figured I had nothing to lose by contacting Google on the form they provided. I had already lost the ability to effectively use a number I had invested in for 3 plus years so if nothing happened, I was not going to lose anymore than I had already lost.

Still, I was uneasy and unsure and did not really want to do it. I mean, I figure Google can probably access anything and everything I have ever done on their platform with or without my permission but I felt like filling out the form would:- 1) be like raising my hand out of the possible billion plus users they have when everybody's hands were down 2) subject me to microscopic scrutiny that I would otherwise not have to go through if I just remained in the sea of a billion with my hands down like everybody else.

Well, I proceeded anyway. I was already logged in to my Google account so the system could identify me and that my access to Google Voice had been suspended. On the form, they asked for the following if I remember correctly: 

-The Username of the Google account with the suspended Google Voice 

-An email address that you can access (I could still access my Gmail and all the other services just not Google Voice so I used the Gmail within the Google account that had the suspended Google Voice)  

-The option to write an explanation up to 1,000 characters if I recall as to why you believe that your Google Voice service was wrongfully suspended

I went ahead and filled everything out. I used up all the 1,000 characters stating my case....I had to go back and edit to make it all fit.

There was no guarantee that Google would read or respond to my appeal. Just something to the effect of "Don't call us, we'll call you."

I submitted the form and waited not knowing what to expect.

Approximately 8 hours later, I got an email from the Google Voice Support Team informing me that my request had been reviewed, my appeal had been approved and that my Google Voice service had been reinstated and would be available soon.

It was a welcome relief and sure enough I was back in business within 2-3 hours of the email.

Anthony M., Batch 21, LLC | [email protected] | 574‑208‑6865 | http://www.batch21.com

I was reading this and it's very long, I haven't read the whole thread. And think this has nothing to do with bigger pocket or real estate??

@Chingju Hu

Thanks for the feedback. 

That said, in my opening post, the very first sentence, I said it is a long story. Nothing new there.

Second you did not read the whole thread. Had you done so, you would have seen the connection to BiggerPockets and real estate but since you did not, here are the top five:

-I am a BiggerPockets member and I am a real estate investor.

-There are other BiggerPockets members that are real estate investors as well.

-I use Google Voice.

-There are other BiggerPockets members that use Google Voice as well.

-BiggerPockets is a great medium for BiggerPockets members who are also real estate investors who also use Google Voice to network and exchange ideas on a tool like Google Voice that they use.

Hopefully, that sheds some light on your three concerns :)

Anthony M., Batch 21, LLC | [email protected] | 574‑208‑6865 | http://www.batch21.com

Many people use Google Voice for their phones service as it allows landlords to screen, record, and preview calls. You can have it ring multiple phones so you don't need to give tenants your primary number nor do you need to carry around an extra phone only for tenants.

Building your business around your phone number and then having access cut off would be bad for some people.

@Douglas Krofcheck  Thanks for chiming in and giving a succinct executive summary of one of the applications of Google Voice pertaining to real estate that hopefully @Chingju Hu  will see and read.

Anthony M., Batch 21, LLC | [email protected] | 574‑208‑6865 | http://www.batch21.com

@Anthony M.

When you send the exact same message to multiple people that will violate their acceptable use policy and will be considered spam.

@Brad E. Yes I got my Google Voice reinstated. I was going to ask @Filipe Pereira  too about his experiences since he stated that he has run into this rather often.

So Filipe, have you actually been suspended  more than once on the same Google Voice account or was it just difficulty sending like I had prior to the suspension. If yes, have you been reinstated more than once on the same Google Voice account?

Anthony M., Batch 21, LLC | [email protected] | 574‑208‑6865 | http://www.batch21.com

@Christopher Phillips

Aaah yes. Acceptable use policy, terms of use...owner's manual for your car, owner's manual for your snazzy new phone....."ain't nobody got time for that" :)

Anthony M., Batch 21, LLC | [email protected] | 574‑208‑6865 | http://www.batch21.com

I started using Google voice for my rental a couple years ago and it has been fantastic.  I use it to screen calls for new tenants.  I like getting the voicemail transcriptions so I can quickly read them vs. listening to every one.  Some of the "bad transcriptions" are absolutely hilarious too.  My kids love to hear the actual calls vs. the transcript.   

If you use the legacy version you can take notes on the calls and your callbacks.  You can also save contacts in different groups  to help work your funnel.  Very useful to keep track of prospects.

Thanks for the post Anthony.  I will have to be careful in the future to not get suspended for trying to send updates to too many people and accidentally have them be considered spam.

@Dean M. You are welcome.

It is pretty cool how many features Google Voice offers for free. I think one of the ones I like the most is call blocking.

I can give out my number without fear of misuse because if someone becomes a pain, I can actually block them. 

I have used Truecaller's call blocking but even after blocking a number with Truecaller, some times my phone will still ring once or twice and then get blocked. Some will not ring but somehow will leave a voicemail.

Google Voice's call blocking however, the few times I have used it is ironclad. One I block a number, nothing so far as I have seen slips by..... no rings, no voicemail, no texts come through.

I tested it out of curiosity by blocking my kids' phone. I then used their phone to call my GV#. This is what someone hears almost verbatim:

"The number that you have called has been disconnected or is no longer in service. Please check the number and try again."

I then used their phone to send  texts to my GV# and even though it showed sent on their phone, the texts never showed up on my GV#.

As soon as I unblocked them, everything was back to normal but the blocked texts never showed up.

Anthony M., Batch 21, LLC | [email protected] | 574‑208‑6865 | http://www.batch21.com