My PayPal account is frozen – can you unfreeze it?

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Paypal closed Hunter Roquemore’s account after he sold a computer on eBay. How can he unfreeze it?

Question: About a year ago, I sold a computer through eBay using PayPal. A few weeks later I received the first of many calls from PayPal that I owed them the money.

The first time, a representative told me that the funds were not authorized for withdrawal and that I owed them. We went back and forth until I hung up. The second time, I was told that the package was delivered to the wrong address. I told a representative that I got the address from them, so that wasn’t my fault.

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PayPal contacted me a third time, saying everything was OK, I didn’t owe them and that they had deleted my account. The next time I went to use their service, they said I should set up a new one. But I continued to get harassing and bullying phone calls for six months until they stopped.

I sold a watch on eBay two weeks ago, set up a new account on PayPal and was paid without problems. Initially, I ran into a problem because I forgot to set up the new PayPal account so I notified them that the old account was still live.

This set off problems. I sold another watch a week later, the funds were verified and when I tried to withdraw them, I was told that there was a limit put on my account.

I went into my account as directed to see the reason why and it wanted me to confirm my social security number. I did so and was told that this account was associated with another account and to call PayPal.

I called yesterday and was told that I owed $900 and that until it was satisfied, I wouldn’t get my money.

Do I really owe PayPal money? And if not, how can I get my money back? — Hunter Roquemore, Atlanta

Answer: PayPal’s user agreement, the terms of service you agree to when you sign up, are pretty clear: You’re on the hook for the money.

If you’re an eBay Seller, you have agreed to comply with the eBay Buyer Protection resolution process. You’ve given eBay permission to make a final decision on a claim that a buyer files against you directly with eBay. If eBay makes a final decision that you lose a claim, you agree to allow PayPal to remove funds from your account.

By the way, PayPal and eBay are splitting into two separate companies. It’s unclear how that will affect PayPal’s terms of service in the future.

Here’s what puzzles me. PayPal claims your computer was sent to the wrong address — an address it provided when you sold your PC. A representative eventually told you by phone that you didn’t have to cover the loss. So why were you now responsible?

I might have asked the third PayPal representative who called you — the one who said you were “OK” — to put that in writing. If you had that, then you might have been able to avoid the $900 bill.

You may have misunderstood the directions of the representative who asked you to close your old account and open a new one. Once you gave PayPal your social security number, it appears that would’ve flagged your new account as a duplicate. Unless the representative fixed your old account, the problem wasn’t solved.

Still, if PayPal says you’re “OK,” even if it’s by phone, you should in fact be OK. I contacted PayPal on your behalf. A representative called you and agreed to write off the balance of the PC. PayPal reopened your account.

What should PayPal have done with Hunter Roquemore's account?

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39 thoughts on “My PayPal account is frozen – can you unfreeze it?

  1. Wow, there is absolutely nothing to go on here 🙂

    The OP gives a lot of “they said” but there is almost no ‘physical’ evidence. Did the original transaction complete? Did the ebay buyer post a rating?

    This makes no sense: I ran into a problem because I forgot to set up the new PayPal account so I notified them that the old account was still live,

    And why would you owe $900 after selling a computer and a watch?

    The whole thing reeks of either a scam, or the OP giving way less than the whole story.

      1. I really don’t know. Not being critical at all, just that the letter leaves so many open questions that I wouldn’t know where to start with the information given. It sounds like maybe there were many, many previous issues and the computer transaction was the last one before the closing.

        Maybe start with the invoice that details the $900, and any proof of payment? Or an ebay rating from the buyer? PayPal doesn’t just charge back $900. The dispute process involves several back-and-forths, with the ability to post evidence, between buyer and seller.

        At least the invoice and dispute documentation could give a fix on the date the problems started, the transactions involved, and whether the OP was actually in arrears with PayPal.

        1. Yes, I did. I asked for a paper trail. That’s always my standard response. PayPal would have any phone conversation transcripts or records. So you’re saying I shouldn’t have contacted PayPal at all and told Hunter to ask for help from someone else?

          1. I’m truly not being critical of you, just the LW for providing such little information. I guess I would have wanted to start with the dispute details for that transaction, which are maintained online.

          2. Well it sounds like he basically told eBay and Paypal to go take a hike without even assisting with the dispute resolution process. The guy had his money and then tried to pull a disappearing act.

          3. I think your readers might be frustrated because there is so little substance in the story, Chris. Personally, I have little knowledge of EBay or PayPal (except getting phished twice after using PP) and how they work. Based on the narrative, it seems like you would have been better off just dumping this one. This makes me think now … in a situation like this, do you ever ask the OP to re-write the story with more clarity?

        2. I know you didn’t direct the question to me, but I wanted to interject anyway, my apologies for the breach in decorum.

          My approach would have been, show me the Transaction documents for the $900 computer transaction and the documentation of your dispute resolution attempts with eBay to begin with.

          In the past when it comes to travel cases you always focus at least in part on the documentation, always advising travelers to write the CSR at least by email. This case reminds me of a legal case where the entire file, is nothing more than a statement and a manilla file folder.

          1. As I mentioned, I had an extensive paper trail. The crux of this case was a verbal promise made by phone, and that’s hard to document. I’ve asked Hunter to join the discussion and fill in some of the blanks.

          2. I think you should have shared some details of that paper trail with the people whom you are asking for an opinion. Your column mentions numerous phone calls, but no hint of any email messages or other correspondence.

          3. Ah, OK, yes, I agree with Fishplate.

            And an honest question: is a statement by phone a ‘promise’? A contract? What if he really did, say, forget to ship the computer, or it turns out in the dispute documentation that he shipped it to the wrong address, or it was a complete dud or a brick. Does the telephone “promise” trump that and get him off the hook?

    1. PayPal actually charges eBay sellers an additional fee on top of all eBay transactions. I experience this a lot as I’m a frequent buyer and seller on eBay.
      If you sell something for $100 on eBay, the buyer sends $100 to PayPal to cover it. Then usually once a month or so PayPal invoices you for 10% of the sales, and you get charged an additional $10 from PayPal.
      In this case, the LW probably did initially owe additional money for the transaction. But $900 seems high unless he started acquiring late fees or something.

      1. Right, that’s why I’m thinking the seller had a very long history with PayPal to rack up $900 in fees. The $900 almost certainly was a chargeback. But as I mentioned above, PayPal doesn’t just charge it back. It mediates, with several iterations involved between parties.

        The OP never denies owing this, but rather simply refers to a phone conversation where PayPal said, in essence, “fuhgeddaboutit.” That’s highly unlikely.

        1. It’s not $900 in “fees” he sold a computer for $900 the buyer filed a dispute claiming they didn’t get it so the buyer got his $900 back, now PayPal wants the LW to pay back Paypal for the computer sale transaction.

          1. However if the seller sent the item to the PayPal address on file, they are supposed to be covered for non receipt claims. And the story says that he did mail it to the PayPal address- thus he should be covered.

            Thats why I would like to have seen the paper trail because we are missing information.

          2. And where is the computer? Where did it eventually go? Is it in limboland so no one has it? Because I’d be a bit frustrated at PayPal if I didn’t receive the computer back and they wanted me to pay for it as well, even though PayPal gave me the address.

  2. The word from computer geekland is: absolutely stay away from PayPal if you’re a seller. It’s okay to buy through PayPal, but every person who has ever sold anything online has a first- or second-hand horror story about this service. Think of it as being the Spirit Air of the financial world.

    The problem is that as a money transfer service it faces the same problems as the banking industry, but because PayPal is not a bank it lacks the centuries of security experience that banks have accumulated. All money transfer services are targets for scammers; your bank’s security protocols may seem overly fussy at times, but each of those little protocols has a history in learned-from experience.

    Meanwhile, PayPal is encountering the wonderful world of online fraud as a beginner. Its default reaction to anything out of the ordinary that may arise in shipment of a sold item is to freeze the seller’s account. Let there be an addressing glitch or a bad review by one person, and you may find your account gone with no warning. When you call PayPal to investigate, you are apt to run into that “nobody’s home’ response that has become so typical of online commerce sites.

    Banks are developing person-to-person payment services of their own. As an online seller, you will probably be better off with one of these than with PayPal.

  3. The problem I see here is that the LW is using eBay/PayPal as if it were Craig’s List. Nothings his problem, when in fact he set up an agreement as a merchant that had terms and now he’s got to “act/behave” like a merchant?

    This sounds scammy to me, were not getting the full story. In the instance of the first transaction and the computer that was sold for $900 the LW’s response to the dispute is “I sent it to the address they gave me, it’s not my problem”. A reasonable merchant would use or have some type of tracking for such a high value transaction and would be able to provide records to Paypal/eBay of the actual delivery address and and the tracking information and who signed for it?

    Second, with this transaction were missing a LOT of detail about what went down with the dispute process and . I can picture this guy basically giving PayPal the equivalent of the finger, once he had his money. That’s not the actions of an innocent person?

    Third, why is there no paper trail for any of this, anyone looking at liability starts collecting a paper trail, for use in defending themselves?

    Fourth, why the conflicting information about the different accounts? That doesn’t make sense since they are attached to identification/social security numbers. Paypal wouldn’t advise a client merchant to create a new account especially one they believed to be associated with misconduct.

    I really get the feeling the LW fabricated the entire exchange, I think they got their money, smelled a “problem” and just vanished by setting up another account, only to find out that Paypal had transaction integrity measures to prevent rouge accounts. Whatever happens someone in Paypal’s security and fraud unit is going to be keeping a keep eye on all activity.

    1. I think many of you read waaaaay too much into what is said,, or fill in the blanks with supposition without evidence to support your statements. First, I am going to assume that Chris does a fair amount of review before even taking the case. It’s not like he hasn’t done this before. I doubt someone can just say “PayPal took my money” and Chris goes running to talk to them. I’m sure there is plenty of documentation, but we are spared a lot of that as it would make a long and tedious read.

      Next, if a rep of PayPal thought everything was OK to say he didn’t have to pay, I would think that the OP is probably not doing anything that terrible, as PayPal isn’t the most forgiving of entities to work with. I know a guy who is very paranoid about security. So much that he would go through an IP randomizer when logging in to his financial institutions. Including PayPal. During a support request, he somehow mentioned that he did this. They banned him for life. Ouch!

      So the fact that PayPal fixed things and reopened his account tells me that what he’s saying is probably legit.

      I almost have to laugh at some of the assumptions made here..maybe he stole the Crown Jewels and tried to launder the funds through PayPal 😉 (kidding, of course)

      1. It’s funny that you are also making assumption. Just because PP reopened his account doesn’t mean is legit but a price to pay for PR reasons.

        Just compare the seller’s statement with the seller protection policy and the outcome of the transaction and you’ll see that the rules were not followed. The policy is there for a reason and if you don’t like it then let the company know but u don’t get to exempt yourself from an signed agreement.

        Same goes with your friend, the pp user agreement clearly states that accessing the site through proxy is not allowed. Your friend doesn’t get to set the rules how to access private property (pp servers). If you don’t agree, then don’t use the services.

        1. I don’t think PP is one to bow to a small amount of pressure. But that is my assumption, yes. And yes, it may be in the terms of service, one that I’m sure I read fully and comprehended completely as well, but banned for life does seem a bit harsh. But what it does show is they stick to their rules, so my assumption that the OP was legit is, in my opinion, justifiable.

    2. If your ebay buyer uses Paypal, you can get the address for the buyer from Paypal. The buyer gives Paypal their address when they make the payment (or they confirm the address they’ve already provided when they set up their account). You can actually print your mailing label directly at home for the package. If I printed the mailing label through the Paypal/ebay service and the package didn’t get to the buyer, I would be questioning Paypal if they tried to find against me in a dispute about receipt of the package. I would be saying what the OP said – if the address is wrong it’s not my fault because the buyer supplied it. That may not have been what was done here and the rest of the story is a bit off to me.

      Edit: as as someone else noted, the buyer’s address has to be confirmed and the seller is responsible for setting up tracking and insurance.

  4. A reputable seller on eBay tracks their packages and a smart one insures them. If the package is delivered to the wrong address, even if it is one provided by eBay or PayPal, the seller works with eBay and the shipping company to create a case to recover the missing package. The buyer files for a refund/chargeback to the account, even if the amount has been previously verified and the seller is free to claim for the insured amount from the shipping company if the item does not return or has the item back if it is recovered. If the seller did not insure the item, he/she is out the value of the item sold.

    eBay and PayPal correspond with the seller via email during this process. It is very, very unusual for either of them to correspond with a seller by phone. That happens only when emails are ignored or the email account is not delivering messages.

    PayPal sets a limit of $500 in withdrawals per month unless the account is verified, such as with a bank account, credit card and/or SSN. In this case, the seller received his $900+ for the computer and must have disconnected his bank account from PayPal after that transaction. That’s the only explanation that explains why PayPal went after this seller with such vigor.

    This entire case reeks of fraud from beginning to end. @Christopher Elliott, you know I rarely say something like that outright, but I happen to have just finished up a series of transactions on eBay where one package went astray, so I have first-hand knowledge of how the process works.

      1. I don’t think it was a “brick in a box”. I think the package was shipped to the address provided by eBay or PayPal and it was misdelivered. Or stolen off the front porch. That happens. PayPal releases funds a certain number of days after the package delivery date. It may take more days than that for the buyer to say, “Hey! Where’s my package?” and by then, the funds have been withdrawn from PayPal. In my case, I saw that the tracking on my package didn’t actually say “delivered” but “out for delivery” and I left the funds in my account. I felt that I, as the seller, had the onus to resolve the problem. From the LW’s account to you, I don’t see that same sense of ownership of the problem.

    1. I agree…I don’t think that we are getting the whole story.

      I agree with you that it is very unwise to ship something of value which exceeds the minimum insurance ($ 100 to $ 200) that comes with the service that you selected from FedEx, UPS, USPS or etc. To ship a PC with a value of $ 900 without insurance demonstrates the lack of business acumen or ignorance of the OP or something that is not above aboard.

    2. I second what @Jeanne_in_NE said. As a former insider I know that PayPal doesn’t close accounts. Usually people end up owning money as seller for to main reasons:

      1) Failed to follow the seller protection policy. (Ship item with tracking to the “verified” address provided in the transaction within an established time. Items over $250 require signature)
      2) Failed to cooperate during the Item not as described claim.

      I recall a lot of seller loosing the claim because they wanted to save on shipping and did not get signature for items over $250.

      As I mentioned, PP doesn’t close accounts and I doubt that he was told to create a new one. If you took AML training, you know that this activity is considered suspicious. I speculate that the claim was lost for not following the seller protection policy and hung up on calls from collections to solve the balance. So when a new account was created, it was flagged by SSN match.

      PP may have dropped the case because is a year old and for PR reasons. At this point the balance may have already been written off.

      PayPal is a safe way to buy and sell online as long as you take the time to read the rules and follow them. Also, ignoring a problem isn’t going to solve it. If someone told you that it was ok, then you should have obtained a official written statement.

  5. I did not vote because I found it impossible to understand this man’s description of what occurred. He says that he got a new account “set” then at the end of the same sentence says he forgot to open a new account. That kind of writing is first-draft stuff and I suggest that some kindly copy editing — noting where was done — would have helped the reader understand what had gone of between this OP and PayPal.

  6. Careful selling ANYTHING on eBay. It’s just about as bad as Craigslist these days. I posted an old iPhone for sale and I had the following problems:

    1. Some dumb witch who claimed she was “new to eBay” and “overbid” and would I please delete her bid? NO. Fortunately, someone outbid her.

    2. Someone who offered me $1000 for the phone if I would take a 3rd party check (uh, no)

    3. Someone who wanted it shipped to Africa for free. (Uh, no)

    Finally, someone bought it, and then, even though I had delivery confirmation, tried to tell Paypal they never received it. Round and round we went until finally I won by sending Paypal the FedEx slip where the woman’s son signed for it. Did I get an apology for the hassle? Nope.

  7. Did the seller ship to a verified PayPal address with tracking. If the buyer gave a address and it was not verified than the seller does not have protection. Also if there was a charge back there are email between PayPal, seller and buyer and where are those. What did they say. I am lost at this and wonder what tracking said. And if the seller did not help and follow up to resolve with the problem than PayPal rules against you. And it may be too late to do anything. I want to see the stuff from the original to decide. And was it shipped properly.

  8. Another letter that leaves us confused. If as a seller the LW mailed this computer to the PayPal address on file with an receipt shown, the seller is supposed to be covered. Did the buyer claim not received? I also have never heard of PP closing an account in good standing.

    I also think there is missing paperwork, since PP doesn’t start making phone calls without emails first. Something isn’t write with the LW’s story. Chris, did PayPal tell you what the initial $900 claim was for?

  9. I can tell you this from personal experience. The people at PayPal and their system designers are the worst in the world. Problem after problem after problem year after year and nothing changes. Either they are pure evil or the biggest idiots in the world. I stopped using them years ago because of their inane rules and bizarre behavior. The only thing keeping them solvent is the eBay monopoly which although I am all for the free market should be broken up by regulators. I think there is a special place for these people and the sooner they get there the better.

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