I hate sharing things like this and I’ve been putting it off for a good while. But here goes…

I wanted to send out a warning for my readers about PayPal. (I know there are many spiritual workers who follow my blog and accept payment via PayPal for their services.)

It’s now been a year since PayPal seized some of my funds for a completely outrageous reason, and it looks like I will not be getting these funds back as we have tried every avenue open to us, to no avail.

If you can’t be bothered to read the whole thing, here’s a quick summary:

Paypal seized $115 of funds in my account, and said they will only return this money to me if I provide a customer’s date of birth – not my DOB, but a customer’s.

This is not information to which I have access, therefore I cannot get the money returned to me.

My protestations about this have fallen on deaf ears over at PayPal for the last 12 months. They’re still refusing to return the money unless I send the customer’s personal information. 

This is why I no longer offer PayPal as a way to pay on my website.

Here’s The Detailed Version Of What Happened:

In November 2018, I sent a payment to one of the guest intuitives who works via this website (the amount was £89, which is about $115 US.)

PayPal froze this payment and asked for further information from me — weirdly they asked me to provide a previous customer’s date of birth. Not mine, not the recipient’s, but a previous customer’s. Here’s the email asking for that:

At first I emailed the customer, explaining the situation and asked for her DOB and then after a day or so thinking about it, I sent another email telling her not to bother as this request from PayPal is unethical and a violation of her privacy….I said we’d take it up with PayPal instead because it had to be a mistake. (And it looks like she was not about to provide this information anyway.)

We have sent countless emails (and rang PayPal many times) to explain that we do not have access to the customer’s date of birth, as that is obviously personal information.

After several phone calls and many months, we got this escalated to the ‘Office of Executive Escalations’ and we were told the same thing — we need to provide the customer’s date of birth, in order to release the funds.

Here’s the email from this office about that:

I’ve even uploaded my own date of birth in case they are erroneously asking for that (to no avail.)

The main problem we have is that the compliance department, who is dealing with this matter (or rather, not dealing with it) does not accept phone calls or correspondence. You can only complain to the ‘Office of Executive Escalations’, which appears to lack an understanding of the situation and still insists that we need to send the customer’s date of birth and won’t release the funds until we do.

After almost a year of having my manager Jillian call and email them repeatedly, I have given up and accepted that PayPal have essentially nicked $115 from me and there’s nothing I can do about it.

As a result, I have stopped using PayPal and have moved over to the payment processor Stripe (who are a lot like PayPal except that their processing fees are 25% lower than PayPal’s.)

It’s not losing the money that I’m most annoyed about – what I’m annoyed about is that I’ve been in a business relationship for the last 10 years with an organisation that is essentially free to do whatever it wants, and that I have no recourse when they steal my money. PayPal have made tens of thousands of dollars in processing fees from my business over the years, and obviously I didn’t know the terms of what I had signed up for, until now.

And judging by the results of the Googling I have done on the matter, I’m “lucky” that the amount seized was a small(ish) one. This is not an isolated case — some people have lost thousands of $$ to PayPal under similar circumstances.

If your bank seizes your money arbitrarily, you can go into a branch, call them up and if neither of those works, there is a body that regulates your bank (here in the UK amongst others we have the Financial Conduct Authority that we can complain to.)

While researching what I can do to get my money back, I have come to realise that this is just not the case with PayPal…I cannot get PayPal to understand that their request is outside of my remit to ask for. I can’t speak to a human person at PayPal in the compliance department (or even email the department) to plead my case. There is no financial body I can complain to. It is a case of “computer says no”.

In addition, I have tried to close my account, as obviously I no longer wish to do business with PayPal and they are also refusing this request until I provide the customer’s DOB. Maddening. I am still getting regular emails asking for the customer’s DOB, one year later.

So here’s my advice for anyone using PayPal:

If you currently accept payments via PayPal, I urge you not trust them with your money. They don’t deserve your business. Stripe is a good alternative that is actually cheaper to use than PayPal and works in pretty much the same way. (My business relationship with Stripe has been completely worry free since I signed up.) I was slightly nervous about eliminating PayPal as a way to pay on my website, but I’m happy to say that there has been no impact whatsoever on the number of sales & customers since I made this change. (And for cross-currency payments to guest intuitives, I now use Transferwise — a much cheaper alternative to PayPal.)

If you do have to use them, I would advise you not to keep money in your PayPal account for any longer than you need to  — clearly they can seize it at any time, for whatever reason they like, and as a condition of its return, request unreasonable information from you to which you have no access. And you won’t be able to do anything about it. It’s bye bye, cashola.