On 10th November I have created a new account on the Binance cryptocurrency exchange. Binance accounts need to be associated with an email account and I created a free ProtonMail account for this purpose.
The reason for choosing ProtonMail over say Gmail or Yahoo is due to the fact that Protonmail is more secure. Basically, I thought that my Binance account would be safer if it was associated with a ProtonMail email account as was any Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency deposited in the same Binance account.
My internet connection does not use a fixed IP address and in order to login into this new Binance account, I need to open my new ProtonMail email account, open an email that is sent from Binance and click on a confirmation link in the email to confirm that the IP address indicated in the email is mine. Without clicking the confirmation link, I cannot access the Binance account.
Email confirmation is also required for withdrawing funds from Binance, as is probably the case with any other major cryptocurrency exchange. In other words, if one loses access to the email account that is associated with a cryptocurrency exchange account, that person can no longer withdraw any cryptocurrencies from the account. This practically means that both the account and any Bitcoin and/or other cryptocurrencies in the account will become useless.
Anyway, to continue with my story, on 18th November I tried to log in into my new Binance account. I entered my email/username and password, inputted the 2FA code from Google Authenticator and I got the usual pop-up message from Binance stating that I need to confirm my IP address by clicking the confirmation link in an email sent from Binance.
So I opened the ProtonMail site and I entered my email address, password and 2FA code. To my surprise, I was unable to log in successfully as I got a message stating that my ProtonMail account has been disabled for abuse or fraud.
I immediately sent an email to [[email protected]
) as indicated in the message and asked for my account to be unblocked. The next day, I received the following reply from ProtonMail:
“The account was automatically disabled by our anti-spam system due to a suspicious activity. The account will not be enabled.”
I wrote to ProtonMail again and explained to support that I did not use the email account for any illicit purposes. I also explained to the ProtonMail staff that I need to access the email account because it is tied to a Binance account. However, the next day ProtonMail's support replied in the following manner:
“Your account cannot be enabled since we believe that it is for abuse.”
I send another email to the ProtonMail abuse team and explained to them that without access to the ProtonMail account I will lose access to the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies worth €500 that are stored in the Binance account that is associated to the disabled email account. I also asked the ProtonMail staff if they could escalate the ticket to management or if they will be willing to help me if I become a paid ProtonMail customer.
I received no reply to my email so the next day I sent another email to the abuse team and pleaded for help. I told ProtonMail’s support that I do not even need to send emails from the deactivated account. I explained to support that the only reason why I need to access the email account is to be able to read emails from Binance and click on any confirmation links.
ProtonMail’s next reply was the following:
“Our team has examined your account once again and it will not be enabled. You will not be able to access your messages anymore or reuse the account.”
I really cannot understand why ProtonMail’s staff have treated me in this manner. My disabled account was just a few days old when it was deactivated. I only had a few, maybe six or seven emails, in the inbox folder with three emails coming from ProtonMail and the rest coming from Binance.
The thing is that, as far as I know, I did not even send a single email before the account was disabled. How did ProtonMail 's staff come to the conclusion that I wanted to use the email account for abuse? I am not stupid so if I wanted to use an email account to spam somebody, I surely would not use an email account that is tied to a cryptocurrency exchange account!
Not knowing what to do, I did a Google search to see if other people have been burnt by ProtonMail’s support after getting their accounts disabled. Not surprisingly, it seems that there are many other ProtonMail users who had their accounts disabled because of some “faulty” anti-spam filter. Apparently many users got their accounts suspended because they were using a VPN service while using their ProtonMail account. I too have a subscription to a VPN service and I would not exclude that ProtonMail’s spam filter flagged my account as suspicious due to the fact I was using the VPN service at the time.
While I can understand that no anti-spam filter is perfect, the real problem is that ProtonMail does not seem to care about its existing customers and potential future customers. I doubt that ProtonMail’s staff have done any effort to examine my mailbox and those of other disabled accounts.
Anyway, it is unfortunate that I had to learn the hard way the mistake I made in thinking that I would be better off in using ProtonMail to secure my Binance exchange account instead of Google, Yahoo or some other email service provider. While ProtonMail might be more secure, I am not aware that Google and Yahoo deactivate accounts for accessing the email accounts over a VPN network or for no other valid reason. What is the use of using a more secure email service if there is a high risk of getting email accounts disabled without doing anything wrong?
Although I will probably never get hold of my €500 worth of Bitcoin again, I hope that at least anyone thinking of using ProtonMail for cryptocurrency exchange accounts, work related accounts, bank related correspondence or even for personal use will find my story useful and will consider all pros and cons before taking a decision.
The fact that my ProtonMail account was disabled is kind of having my €500 worth of Bitcoin being held hostage by ProtonMail. ProtonMail does not have access to the cryptocurrencies in my Binance account but neither do I at this point. It is like I had two different keys to unlock the repository where the cryptocurrencies are stored and ProtonMail confiscated one of the keys. There is no need to say that I have worked hard for those €500, but what if I had €5,000 or even €50,000 worth of cryptocurrencies in that Binance account? How many cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency exchange accounts will be lost forever because of ProtonMail’s actions?
ProtonMail’s “faulty” anti-spam filter is probably doing the company more harm than good. However, it is only ProtonMail’s fault for not doing anything about the issue, playing the bullies game, pretending to examine disabled accounts while providing no real evidence of abuse and being insensitive to the fact that disabled accounts can lead to loss of money, loss of business or loss of personal data.
UPDATE on 26th November: After providing proof that I am not a spammer, ProtonMail's abuse team contacted me this morning to inform me that my account has been enabled. I can confirm that the email account is working fine again.
Thank you ProtonMail for your understanding.
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