Thursday, April 29, 2010

National Security and Financial Insecurity

Caveat Emptor. Let the buyer beware. The ancient Romans knew what they were talking about.

Let's talk about Xoom for a minute, shall we? is a wire transfer service that's billed as a cheaper alternative to the long-established but more expensive Western Union. I'd intermittently used Western Union until last spring and was always pleased with their service. But Xoom could do one thing that Western Union could not: Transfer funds from Paypal to a bank account or vice versa.

But Paypal already transfers funds, does it not, Master? (or whatever sobriquet you call me when I'm out out of earshot.) True, but as Paypal is quick to point out, they are not a wire transfer service per se. In fact, even in the electronic age, it takes them days to transfer funds from their coffers to your bank's, sometimes as long as four days. Enter Xoom.

I started up a Xoom account about a month or two ago because I wanted the option of being able to transfer money from Paypal to my checking or savings account within minutes if I had to. Xoom will do this, allow people to send money to themselves and, for a small fee of $4.99 (or whatever they feel like charging that day. The rates fluctuate literally daily), it's worth the speed and convenience, right?

After some of you kind folks kicked in with some donations this past week, I tried making something almost like a dummy transfer. I wanted to send a few bucks from Paypal to my checking account much in the same way that employers and payroll companies make dummy transfers the first week of a direct deposit account.

The transfer didn't go through. It had been deducted from my Paypal account but not inserted into my checking account. In other words, it was stuck, or suspended, in transit.

I tried logging on to my Xoom account and found I couldn't. Then I got an email informing me that my Xoom account was revoked because I'd somehow violated their TOS. How did I do this? The response from "customer service" is as follows:
Response (Victor A. Ferrer Moya) - 04/29/2010 05:00 AM
Dear Robert Crawford,

As stated in our previous communication, your Xoom account has been disabled for violations of the Xoom User Agreement. This decision cannot be appealed, and our customer service team is unable to discuss the matter with you. The decision is based on Xoom’s proprietary compliance and anti-fraud policies and procedures, which are mandated by the Bank Secrecy Act, the USA Patriot Act, and other applicable U.S. laws and regulations. Pursuant to the Xoom User Agreement, we have the right to modify or discontinue your use of the Xoom service at any time, and we are under no obligation to share the reasons for our decision with you. Accordingly, no additional information will be provided.

Xoom Customer Service Team

The Bank Secrecy Act? The USA PATRIOT Act?! Anti-fraud policies? "We are under no obligation to share the reasons for our decision with you"?

So, when I try to send $25 to myself from one corner of cyberspace to another, suddenly I'm singlehandedly financing the al Qaida network from my 4 room apartment? This rationale is used every day when people find out at the fucking airport they've been put on No Fly lists. This is the rationale used by the US military at Gitmo.

You broke the law. You don't need to know what laws were broken, how, what evidence there is against you, who's accusing you, blah blah blah. Welcome to the Trial.

So, assuming they'd made a mistake, I decided to open up another account under a different email address. But I couldn't use my checking account information because it was on record with another account. Please log on to that account, they said, even though they'd canceled it just days ago.

Before I knew it, they had sent me another email informing me that that account had been canceled, too, using the same "national security" rationale. By now, I'm assuming that Ephraim Zimbalist, Jr. and Dick Cheney were going to kick down my door for sending money to Mohammed Atta in Prague. As with the first time they sent me the same bullshsit form letter informing me I was basically a terrorist financier, although I had not been permitted to wire even a penny to myself (eventually, I got the money from the first transaction put back in my Xoom account). With the letter was a generic email address to which I could address my concerns that they felt they never again had to broach.

No response.

Finally, I called them up today and killed half my cell phone minutes listening to muzak while some Engrish-speaking CS rep in New Dehli kept putting me on hold without actually doing anything but reading from a script.

This is the transcript of the email I sent them in response:

OK, first off, if you're going to claim there's been an incident, then I, the victim here, have a right to know what "incident" to which you're referring and "unable to discuss the matter with you" be damned. I just wasted about half my cell phone minutes being put on hold time and again and listening to your 70's porn music while waiting for your CS rep to do DICK for me and read me the same script over and over again..

This is like something out of a Franz Kafka novel. "You have violated the law, you will pay the penalty but we don't have to tell you what you did or why we're doing this to you," making my so-called transgression sound as if I violated national security, as if I'm being suspected of single-handedly funding al Qaida from my 4 room apartment here in Massachusetts.

The Bank Secrecy Act? The USA PATRIOT Act? What the fuck are you talking about? If you canceled my account because of something I allegedly did, then I suspect you'd have to do this to all your other account holders because I'm sure they're doing the same thing I'm doing: Using your wire transfer service for humanitarian or legitimate financial purposes.

So, fine. You lost my business, which obviously you don't care about since you've canceled not one but TWO of my accounts. But let me tell you a few things: Working in cahoots with this paranoid government is costing you business. Maybe you don't give a rat's ass about that because you're more interested in being good Americans than you are in making money. But this is exactly how people get put on terrorist No Fly Watch lists. They're told, "You're now on the list and can't fly and we don't have to tell you why you're on it or what you did. It's about national security."

This is what we do to detainees in Gitmo and other places. "You're up on charges but you don't have a right to know what they are, who's testifying against you or what the evidence is. It's about national security."

Now I'm hearing crap from you people about the USA PATRIOT Act and the Bank Secrecy Act as if I'm funneling thousands every week to the Middle East to fund al Qaida. OK, if that was the case, maybe I could understand the interest and see the national security angle. All I wanted to do was to transfer funds from one account to another. I'm not a terrorist financier.

Secondly, when you claim I'm violating your user agreement (which I've read over and over and fail to see how I've violated it) yet refuse to tell me how I have, you're basically setting yourselves up for entrapment. If someone is breaking the law, it's up to you to tell them what laws are being broken to ensure they don't do it again. This is why we have something call "Miranda rights", which allows a suspect to know the charges, why he's being arrested and other useful tidbits of information. Otherwise, "ignorance of the law" suddenly makes for a plausible defense. Run that by your team of ambulance chasers in Legal.

Thirdly, I am a political blogger and a damned good one. I've been doing this for 5+ years and have amassed a loyal and growing following. When news of this hits the blogosphere, that your company is revoking peoples' accounts over nothing, refuse to state why, refuse any appellate process and then stalk these people online through their names and to cancel those accounts before there's a chance of any law being violated, then you're going to have a PR nightmare like you wouldn't believe. Never underestimate the viral power of the internet.

Working in cahoots with the paranoid US government resulted in a lot of lost business and customers for the telcoms who spied on us at the behest of the NSA and the Bush White House, complicity that resulted in Congress having to give them retroactive immunity because they violated the 4th amendment millions of times over. That, too, was done in the interests of "national security."

Fourthly, I've been using Western Union far longer than I had a chance to use you people. I never had the slightest problem with them and they never failed me once, never waved the USA PATRIOT Act or the Bank Secrecy Act in my face and made me think I was going to get a visit from the FBI at any moment for violating national security.

To say that you people, in one short week, have proven to be the bane of my existence, to say that you people suck, to say that you people are willingly losing business because of the paranoia of the gov't at whose beck and call you're at, just doesn't quite say it. And the sooner you and your legal dept. get your noses out of Uncle Sam's rosy red ass, the better off you'll all be.

In the meantime, I'm going to take you people apart one bit at a time telling nothing but the truth and there ain't a damned thing you can do about it.

Have a nice day, assholes.

I await their response with baited breath.

So I go online and start investigating this company (too little, too late, I know). What I found scared the shit out of me and I don't usually scare easily. Time after time, all I'm hearing is horror stories from people who had money rifled from their bank accounts by Xoom without authorizing any transfers.

Xoom knows my account #, my routing #, Paypal account info, street address, phone number and both my email addresses. Alarmed, I went back to their site and requested they erase my banking information since I'm so undesirable, anyway.

Believe it or not, this was the response:
Delete my banking history

Discussion Thread
Response (Dhiraj Relia) - 04/29/2010 09:47 AM
Dear Robert,

Thank you for contacting Xoom Customer Service.

Xoom is committed to maintaining the highest level of security for our customers. Please be informed that due to Xoom standard policy and security reason we are unable to delete any details of your payment sources.

You will always find the most current, safe and secure options available when placing your Xoom money transfers. Xoom apologizes for any inconvenience this service modification may cause you.

Xoom Customer Service Team

Yeah, you read that right. This is what I said in response to that:
OK, let me put it in terms even you fucking zombies can understand:

#1, I am in the process of blocking you thieves from ever again accessing my bank account. #2, You don't delete my bank acct # and routing #, I sic the California Attorney General on you. That would be former Gov. Jerry Brown. You are HQ'd in San Francisco, right? That especially goes if I find even one penny siphoned from my bank account by you people, as this long, long, loooooooong list of complaints alleges. People have had their accounts rifled for as much as $800+ by you jackals.

Now you're telling me, after canceling two of my accounts for bullshit reasons, that you're going to hang on to my banking information for my "security"? Oh, no, no, no, I don't think so, amigo. Your security sucks so hard it can actually replace planetary gravity. How can keeping my banking info on your system be more beneficial to my financial security than simply deleting it?

So you WILL expunge any and all my banking information from your mainframe or I will contact AG Brown immediately and file a criminal fraud complaint against you. I can hire someone to hack into your system whenever I want and if I find my banking info still on your mainframe, you're all out of business.

Comprende, amigo? You want to put me to the fucking ultimate test? Let's dance and we'll see who's still on their feet when that bell rings.

Btw, I'm a political blogger who's very well known and very widely read. I can make your many, many, many crimes go viral in addition to filing criminal fraud charges against you. Do not trust in your ambulance chasers in Legal. They will be no match for Jerry Brown's people.

I've already been in touch with my bank and am in the process of having Xoom blocked from accessing my account ever but that still leaves my Paypal account exposed. After the cancellation of my first account and the creation of the second, I noted that Xoom announced they were ending their association with Paypal as of March 24th. Methinks Paypal ended their association with Xoom, not vice versa.

This is Xoom's contact information:
301 Brannan St # 5
San Francisco, California
United States
Phone: (415) 777-4800

But all their help desk people are either in the Philippines or India so good luck getting someone who can be understood the first time and all they do all day long is read scripts and send the same generic say-nothing emails to people with complaints. Basically, they help nobody and just run interference for the crooks who hang onto other peoples' money as long as they can while collecting interest on it.

Never use this service. Western Union can't help me but perhaps they can still help you if you send money overseas or across the country. It's a fucking miracle these cocksuckers are still in business but if enough of us complain to the BBB, maybe we can put the kibosh on them once and for all.


At April 29, 2010 at 3:55 PM, Anonymous P'ville reader said...

You sure have had a lot of trouble with banks and other financial institutions. Reading some of the complaints on your link, it seems like many of them were from Filipinos trying to send money back home. So Xoom is robbing poor people and immigrants. What a great business model for them! Pick on folks who are weak financially, don't have the money to hire a lawyer, and might be too busy working or have other issues like a language barrier that would keep them from causing trouble by legal means. And in the laissez-faire (i.e. "the strongest get to do whatever the fcuk they want") system in the U.S., there's no stopping them. Can't have those evil regulations, eh? What a dystopia the U.S. has become!

At April 29, 2010 at 8:26 PM, Blogger nunya said...

Sorry for the troubles and thanks for the heads up.

At April 30, 2010 at 12:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dang Robert that is scary. I have a not so similar story about some "sheer" roses that I "won" which caused me a ton of trouble round about Valentine's day. I only had to pay $4.99 for shipping and handling. Yeah right. One of the things I admire about you Robert is that Papa don't take no mess!!! Peace. Naten.

At April 30, 2010 at 8:25 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Update from Xoom:
Response (Richa Ahluwalia) - 04/29/2010 11:09 PM
Dear Robert,

As stated in our previous communication, it is not possible for us to delete your banking history. Further , your Xoom account has also been disabled for violations of the Xoom User Agreement.

This decision cannot be appealed, and our customer service team is unable to discuss the matter with you.

The decision is based on Xoom’s proprietary compliance and anti-fraud policies and procedures, which are mandated by the Bank Secrecy Act, the USA Patriot Act, and other applicable U.S. laws and regulations.

Pursuant to the Xoom User Agreement, we have the right to modify or discontinue your use of the Xoom service at any time, and we are under no obligation to share the reasons for our decision with you.

Accordingly, no additional information will be provided.

Thank you

Xoom customer service team.

That's kind of like evicting someone from their home without just cause then saying, "We insist on retaining the combination to your wall safe. But don't worry: its contents will be safe with us. Wink, wink."

Fuck them. I'll let Jerry Brown take over from here.

At April 30, 2010 at 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The rule of law has not been restored, therefore the system is broken. I wouldn't expect any satisfaction if I were you.


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