PayPal and automated suspicion

So today I discover that, not only have I received a low winning bid on my auction of my old G5, but my PayPal account access was limited, because “We have observed activity in this account that is unusual or potentially high risk.” Initially, PayPal asked me to confirm my address and SSN, called me to be sure I was me, and made me provide a tracking number for the machine I’d shipped. I did so, providing PayPal with proof that I am the same meat person who has had an account with them for 6 years.

Here’s where it gets wierd. They decide I’m still suspicious: in fact, at this point Amber, a PayPal employee, suspects I stole the G5 I sold on ebay:

Please complete the steps below so that we may review your account further:

– Fax copies of the original bills of sale or invoices referencing your purchase or acquisition of the items you are selling along with the name and telephone number of your supplier(s)

If you are faxing information, you must use the cover page provided by PayPal. The cover page contains information specific to you and using it ensures that your documents are routed and handled in a timely manner. To print the cover page, log into your account and click on the fax documents link on the “Limited Account Access Details” page.

The best part about this email is that there is no fax documents link, nor any page with that title. (a case where an href is worth a hundred words.)
So now I have to dig up proof that the machine is mine, something slightly complicated by the fact that Vika bought it for me.

The main interesting bits here are:

  1. I was declared suspicious by an algorithm.
  2. The algorithm’s ‘reasoning’ is deliberately obfuscated from me.
  3. The human (Amber) who reviewed the case made the situation worse, not better, and demanded I follow impossible instructions.
  4. The human I called could do nothing save modify the page to show the link.

Between this, identity theft and no-fly lists, I’m feeling like we’re well on our way to computer mediated injustice, where algorithms will be judge, jury, and executioner, and the targets will be so random that no effective defence will be mounted.

Anyway, this really shows up my “PayPal is grand” perkiness of the past. I’ll use craigslist instead of ebay to sell anything else, and will try to avoid paypal if at all possible.

Weird, how pointlessly wrong one’s feelings about corporations can be. I had warm fuzzies about PayPal- they’d made my financial life much easier, in the past- but this frisking really blows it. It’s like someone you’d been casually seeing for a while turn paranoid and accusatory for no good reason.

7 thoughts on “PayPal and automated suspicion

  1. I frequently receive scam mail purporting to be from Paypal & saying my account has been limited. I’d advise you to contact Paypal to make sure the message was authentic since you have provided whoever sent the email with potential identity theft information.

  2. Oh, I get them too. That’s why it took me two days to realize it had happened. Between their site (which says I’m limited), the verbal confirmation of the customer ‘support’ person I called, and the fact that I can’t actually withdraw my money, I’m pretty darn sure they’ve limited my account.

  3. What is the telephone number you called to speak to the human- I am having the exact same experience as you and need some serious help. What number do I call to speak to a human?
    Cheers

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