Last week I mentioned an interesting incident that led me to suspect PayPal was reading private messages sent along with payments. I tossed it out there for my readers to get a reaction, and there were some interesting stories in the comments.
From commenter Gody:
A friend and I use paypal all the time to settle expenses from travel, restaurants, etc. The only time my friend ever had an issue was when he sent me a payment with the word “Cuba” in the text notes. Paypal decided to flag and freeze that payment, I assume it was due to the restrictions on using U.S funds to purchase travel to Cuba or Cuban goods.
My friend contacted paypal and once he mentioned that his payment was for settling our tab at a local Cuban restaurant the freeze was lifted.
From Jose A:
A few years ago, a “friend” collected some money of a raffle whose proceeds would fund scholarships for graduating high school students and someone wrote “For the raffle” in their note. Within 24 hours, PP sent a letter that the account was frozen. It was unfrozen after making assurances to PP that the account would not be used in that manner anymore. So people have been asked not to make reference to a “raffle” ever since. No problems since.
From Andrew C:
Paypal has been doing this a while – had them lock down an account for collecting basketball pool money at least five years ago.
I contacted Jennifer Hakes, the head of North American PR for PayPal, who responded with “Let me look into this. Thanks for reaching out!” After I didn’t hear from her for a few days, I checked in again last Friday and yet again this past Tuesday. There was no response either time.
The most likely situation here is that the head of North American PR doesn’t want to bother with some piddling little blog. On the other hand, the PR team of Capital One, a company much bigger than Paypal, got back to me within about two days.
But the silence, plus my friend’s experience and the experience of others leads me to believe that Paypal has a pretty serious intrusion of privacy which is not addressed anywhere in its terms and conditions. Feel free to take a look for yourself to see if there’s any verbiage along the lines of “PayPal reserves the read to read your correspondence” and I’ll be happy to correct that statement. And if I’m wrong and there’s somebody from PayPal reading this who can set the record straight, by all means speak up and let me know.
Failing that, I encourage you all to avoid PayPal if at all possible as a matter of principle and to spread the word about what they’re up to. If PayPal is going to snoop on its users, they need to be up front about it.
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