Isn't it peculiar when something that is so self-evidently intended to make the world come closer together turns out to actually keep it further apart? When Cyclone Nargis struck and I wanted my help as small as it was to take immediate effect, I turned to Paypal.
My payment/donation was accepted almost immediately, which was on May 9, and I was a happy woman. Today, as of May 25, my payment is still in a Paypal account, along with other donations that were made for the same purpose, and Myanmar cyclone survivors haven't seen a penny of the money sent to Paypal.
The person who holds the account sent an equivalent amount with friends who were going to Myanmar, money that came from his own pocket that he was sure would be reimbursed by the funds that had been sent to his Paypal account. Now he's out of pocket by a thousand dollars or so, because Paypal promptly froze his account on suspicion of fraud.
The communication received from Paypal indicates that this was done because of cases of fraud that occurred during the tragedy of Katrina. Further research has shown that Paypal has been the object of more than one class action suit well before Katrina struck U.S. shores, because it hadn't sufficiently explained their fraud policy to people who used their services.
Paypal has paid millions of dollars to plaintiffs in these suits as the courts ruled in the favor of the injured parties rather than in the "protective" interests of internet big business. Apparently they can well afford the loss of a million or two every once in a while because they continue to exercise an insufficiently explained fraud policy. They also seem able to pay people to scour the internet in search of possible fraud.
This blog was found, and all entries relating to Paypal were read, by somebody working for Paypal's parent company, EBay, when they googled the account name of the person to whom I had sent money. When I discovered this by looking at my StatCounter info, I didn't feel particularly "protected," more like violated in some way.
This is all, to a company that deals in millions in a single class action suit, very small potatoes. My donation was for $50.oo. My friend is out of pocket for $1000. $5o I'm sure can buy a significant amount of survival necessities in Myanmar, and $1000 could perhaps save more than one life. And, if enough Paypal accounts for $1000 are frozen for a month, perhaps they will earn that entity enough interest to pay for a good business lunch for two of their executives.
It was so easy to press the button to send the money to Paypal. Pity that it's not so easy for them to press the button that will thaw an account that should never have been frozen in the first place.
As for me, I'm looking for alternatives to Paypal and will certainly publicize whatever I find. There are, as I learned in Econ 101, always alternatives--and thank God for that!