While there are an abundance of different third-party tools in existence for Pokemon GO, they run the risk of getting the player shadow banned.
Developer Niantic’s primary way of punishing players who violate the terms of service for Pokemon GO is to give them a shadow ban. This has been a steady theme throughout Niantic’s existence, and is a threat in its original GPS-based AR game Ingress as well as in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
But Pokemon GO’s various restrictions aren’t particularly well explained, and it’s not always obvious why players are being punished. Here is everything you need to know about Pokemon GO’s soft bans, shadow bans, and other types of punishments, as well as how to get around them.
A soft ban prevents players from seeing wild Pokemon and prevents them from interacting with Pokestops, while leaving some other features intact.
Almost all Pokemon GO players have experienced a soft ban at one point or another. When players are in a moving vehicle and don’t see any Pokemon spawn and can’t receive items from Pokestop spins, that’s a soft ban.
Players who are soft banned in a vehicle see the ban lifted almost immediately after they stop moving. Niantic is capable of putting a lingering soft ban in place on players who have suspicious activity on their account, particularly GPS spoofing. This can also be triggered by players that live far apart sharing an account.
These bans can vary in length and players won’t be told how long these bans will last. The good news is that they typically don’t last for long and will wrap up within a day. Though soft bans sound scary based on having “ban” in the name, they really aren’t a big deal and have not been associated with any accounts being shut down.
A shadow ban prevents players from seeing any rare Pokemon on the map, but allows them to catch common Pokemon, participate in raids, and hatch eggs.
Shadow bans come with an explicit notice that is delivered to the player upon login and requires acknowledgment. They’re easily identifiable by their red text and ominous “Warning Notice” subject line. Unlike soft bans, shadow bans have definitive length attached to them which is given in the notice, but are much more serious.
Shadow bans can come from GPS spoofing, but typically come from using third-party extensions to Pokemon GO. This includes IV checkers, auto-catchers, and other external apps that access Pokemon GO.
These bans can last for an extended period of time, starting at one week. If a player receives numerous shadow bans, it can potentially lead to a complete ban of their account that prevents them from playing Pokemon GO in any way.
When a shadow ban has been put in place, players will be notified with a pop-up in Pokemon GO.
This notification tells the player that they have been shadow banned and how long the shadow ban will be in place for. Outside of this, players don’t really have any markers denoting that a ban is in place on them.
The only way to check the status of one’s shadow ban is to compare what they see with an account that isn’t banned. Players that are shadow banned will see fewer rare Pokemon when they walk around. This can be done with another player or by signing in on a second account.
The only ways to fix a shadow ban in Pokemon GO are waiting out the duration of the ban or sending an appeal directly to Niantic.
The first method is straightforward and just requires waiting. Players can still enjoy the core experience of Pokemon GO when shadow banned, and can even catch rare Pokemon with the Pokemon GO Plus device. They can still participate in raids, complete special research missions such as Finding Your Voice, and interact with other players.
The actual detriments of shadow bans are minimal in Pokemon GO outside of the escalating punishments for each consecutive ban, so players can simply play normally and wait.
If the length of the shadow ban is prohibitive, or if the shadow bans have escalated to a complete and permanent ban from Pokemon GO, players can submit an appeal on their ban. This is done through the official Pokemon GO website.
After submitting the appeal, banned players can only wait and hope for the best.