Pokémon Go fans say they're being repeatedly banned for seven days, contrary to how the game's anti-cheat policy is supposed to be enforced.
After being hit by the game's standard seven-day ban for a first cheating offence and then waiting a week to play again, fans are logging in to find a second, third and fourth seven-day ban simply awaits them on their return.
Instances of players being erroneously flagged for cheating have occurred in the past, and developer Niantic acknowledged a spate of false flags last year. But the situation here seems a little more complex.
I've heard from nearly a dozen players personally experiencing the issue and reports are mixed whether their initial ban was justified. While some players are protesting their innocence, others have quietly told me they were spoofing - using tools to modify their real location.
But regardless of the initial infraction, players say they have had no time to log back in and play, or done nothing wrong if they have been able to, and are still racking up a further seven-day bans on a rolling basis.
"In early March I was given a strike for using third-party software," one cheat admitted to me. "I took the blame for it because I did decide to spoof to do a Lucky Trade with someone. Since then, I have continued to be striked and as I'm writing this, I am on my fourth strike. I'm afraid my account is going to be terminated after respectfully following the rules."
"My account has recently been hit with a seven-day strike, and I waited patiently for that seven days to pass," another cheat told me. "I followed the standard procedure of submitting a ban appeal to Niantic (only on the second strike), but all that I've gotten back was a copy and paste response. I replied to that email and have not heard anything back from them yet."
Others claim they were not cheating at all - though this is impossible to prove.
Still, Niantic's published three-strike anti-cheat policy states that first offences will result in a seven-day ban, with second offences incurring a 30-day penalty. A third penalty will see your account banned for good. What's happening here does not fall in line with the above.
Players say they have repeatedly contacted Niantic's customer support to report the issue, though not heard back. We've contacted Niantic ourselves for an update. [UPDATE 15th April: Niantic has told us they're aware of the issue and looking into it.]
There's no doubting that Niantic's games - and particularly the ultra-popular Pokémon Go - still suffer greatly from cheating. Niantic recently said it had banned over a million cheaters in 2020, though player communities are still rife with reports of suspicious player behaviour. What players are asking for in this instance is for Niantic to clarify why accounts are being repeatedly hit - and to be let back in if they really are behaving themselves.