Friday, April 1, 2011

Pay Pal-Your Ticket To A Foreign Prison And Perhaps Execution

Pay Pal-Your Ticket To A Foreign Prison And Perhaps Execution

My dear readers I had a terrible experience with Pay Pal that I would like to share with you. Most of us know that credit card and debit card companies have developed very sophisticated programs to detect fraud. At one level these programs give us extra protection. At another level they make life more difficult for us. Any time we do anything out of our ordinary pattern, we have to call the security department at the card company and inform them.

An overseas vacation requires special attention. The minute the card company sees charges from far away, they will assume that your card or card number has been stolen and lock up your card. It is necessary to call the card company before you fly off to far away lands.

I just came back from a month in Brasil and Argentina. Before leaving I called the Pay Pal security department. I gave them my travel dates and the countries that I would be in. I was assured by the very nice lady on the phone that all would be well. I just needed to send an email to the company after two weeks reminding them that I was on my over seas trip.

I flew to Brasil on 21 February. My Pay Pal card worked perfectly in Brasil. As I was getting ready to fly from Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires to join my wife, I got a notice that a security hold had been placed on my Pay Pal card. I tried to correct this by email and got no response or help.

After I arrived in Buenos Aires, I went to a local phone and internet shop and called Pay Pal security. I was in for one of the most humiliating and degrading experiences of my life. I had to stay on hold for one hour and run up a large international toll bill. I got a lady on the phone and was put through a rigorous interrogation that included listing my residential addresses for the last 40 years. I finally passed that test. I was assured that my card would be all right for the rest of my vacation. I was even sent over to a Pay Pal manager in Omaha,Nebraska who gave me glowing assurances that all would be OK with my card for the rest of my trip.

My card worked from 3 March until Saturday 12 March, 2011. I was in a hotel in Llao Llao, Argentina finishing a delightful lunch in a hotel high above Lago Nahuel Huapi. I presented my Pay Pal card to the waiter. He came back with a sad look on his face and told me that my card had been declined. Fortunately I had the cash to pay for the meal. I left angry and humiliated. A wonderful moment in my life had been ruined. I made my way back to my hotel and got on the computer. I saw that my Pay Pal card had again been locked up for a security hold. I was told to send an email and they would respond in 24-72 hours. I did this and never got a response. I sent a desperate email to their vice president of international operations and never got a response.

I found myself in a bad situation. I had only enough cash on me to pay all the taxi fares I had to pay to get back to the US. Fortunately I had been smart enough to pay my hotel in advance. But I was in a situation where I had no money for food. My State Farm Bank ATM card did not work in Argentina. The hotel where I was staying offered a breakfast of cereal, bread, coffee, and juice. That was the food that I had to survive on for seven days. It was not a nice way to have to spend my last week of vacation.

When I got to Los Angeles I called Pay Pal and demanded that my card be turned back on. I gave them my whole story. They refused to turn the card back on until I did a pass word change and was at home so they could call me and verify that I was at home. I demanded to talk to the president of the company. The lady hung up on me. Then an hour later I got an email telling me that my card had been turned back on.

I have been traveling internationally for almost 40 years. One of the worst nightmares of any traveler is to appear at the hotel desk to check out and have your credit or debit card declined for payment of the hotel bill. Virtually every country and political jurisdiction on earth has a defrauding an innkeeper statute. In a country with a British Common Law tradition, you might face a maximum of 90 days in jail for not paying a hotel bill.

If you are in a country with Muslim law, not paying a valid debt carries a maximum sentence of death. Some poor hapless Pay Pal card holder would walk up to the check out station at a hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He or she knows they have the funds to pay the bill on their card. He or she will know that they called Pay Pal security and  informed them of their trip to Saudi Arabia. All of a sudden their card is rejected. An hour later they find themselves in a Saudi police station being charged with a crime that carries the death penalty because Pay Pal locked up their card on a security hold.

OK the hapless Pay Pal card holder probably will not be executed for this because the Arabs would be frightened of all the bad publicity they would get for such a thing.

A more likely nightmare scenario would take place in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The poor hapless Pay Pal user gets his card denied after he or she did everything right. They find themselves in a Guatemalan prison. They quickly find out that the state does not supply food, clothing, or medical care to prisoners. If one does not have a family member providing these necessities, starvation is a definite possibility. The hapless Pay Pal card holder then finds out that it will take 12-18 months before he even gets to see a judge about the matter.

These heavy-handed security policies used by Pay Pal could end up destroying lives and families.