Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2000 19:10:01
In the first week of June, 2000, it came to my attention that $495.00 had been withdrawn from my checking account, without my knowledge or authorization, by PayPal.com. PayPal has consistently not only refused to aid the authorities in catching the thief, but has blocked every attempt made by me, the authorities, or my attorney to stop this thief.
An unknown person created a fake email account at a server called sature.net, using my previous name -- the name still on my check card since I had not yet ordered a new one -- as the email address. They then used this email account to pose as me to PayPal, and open up an account, using my actual address and my check card number. The check card was still in my possession and I was unaware a thief had somehow acquired the number and expiration date. Check cards work like credit cards in that they do not require a PIN, but they withdraw directly from your bank account.
I became aware the transaction was going through on Sun June 4. My bank told me I had to wait until the transaction went through and the money was gone, then file a fraud report with them. I did so. Because I had to let the transaction go through, 5 other checks I had written against that money bounced and I was charged $27 for each one by my bank -- a total of $135, plus the fees from the merchants for returned checks.
On Monday June 5 I called PayPal customer service to report that I did not open up an account with them and did not authorize this fraudulent transaction. The customer service representative, Ginger, told me the email address that had been used by the thief to pose as me, as well as the address listed with PayPal, which was my actual mailing address. She told me the funds had been transferred to an account designated with the email address: email@example.com. She told me she could not give me any more information about the recipient of my funds and that I would have to speak to the fraud department. She told me she would put a "freeze" on the fraudulent account in my name while their fraud department investigated. To date I have no idea if this account is till active, though there have been no other transactions on my card.
The fraud department of PayPal never called or contacted me in any way. I called the same customer service number 3 more times the first week, asking when the fraud department would call me. Each time the customer service rep was very surprised, saying, What? They haven't called you yet! I'm so sorry, they should have; I'll give them the message you called again. I asked to speak directly to the fraud department and was told they were in "a different state" and I could not be transferred. I asked for the direct phone number to the fraud department and was told the customer service department did not have that number but was contacting them via computer only.
During this first week I also searched the PayPal website for fraud information. It did not contain their street address so I could mail them the notice of fraud in writing; it only contained an email address. I sent an email to the address confirming my telephone conversation with their customer service department and reiterating the case. I received no response at all for over a week. When I did receive a response via email, it was a form email telling me only that they had received my complaint and that if I had "any other questions" I should reply to the email. I did reply to the email with questions, including: what is your mailing address? What is the phone number/mailing address for the fraud department? Why has no one called me? To date, I have never received any response nor any other official communication from PayPal.
Ten days after I discovered the transaction, nine days after I called to report the fraud, and one week after I sent in my email notice (as per their website instructions) I received a form letter from PayPal via postal mail. This letter said that I had reached my limit of $495.00 in transactions and to continue using the same card number I would have to confirm my address by responding to this letter. This was my first and only contact with PayPal corporate. I called PayPal again in regards to the letter. I confirmed the account with my name on it had been frozen. I again asked to be contacted by the fraud department. I was never contacted.
In the meantime I had also contacted the Chicago Police Dept. via telephone and filed a police report Deception/Fraud #F340028. I spoke with a detective who took PayPal's telephone number and she told me she would be calling them to find out to the contact information for the recipient of my funds. To my knowledge PayPal did not give her this information.
My bank eventually refunded the $495.00 and the fees it had determined were directly related to the theft. However, they did not refund the ancillary fees -- meaning checks I wrote that I knew would bounce, but I had no choice but to write them anyway because I needed food or gas and the money was gone -- and the late fees for bills I could not pay, or fees from merchants for bounced checks.
In July I spoke with my attorney, Richard Gutof, and asked him to contact PayPal and pursue with them the identity of the person registered with PayPal under "firstname.lastname@example.org". After several letters and phone calls, PayPal had continued to refuse to give this information. They told him they would not give him or the police this information without a court order. My attorney quoted me a price of $2000 to get a court order. At that point I gave up on the idea of legal action.
In September I was contacted by Betsy Ashby, who had received an email from Damon Billian, who said he was with PayPal customer service. I contacted him via email, repeated the story to him, and sent him copies of all emails. He gave me PayPal's mailing address and told me he would be in contact with someone "higher up" who could "do something". Even though I emailed him 2 more times, I never heard from him again.