Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I had my Venmo account temporarily terminated a few weeks ago. I didn't do anything other than be the recipient of a $139.99 payment from a stranger "for laundry". My account was unfrozen, but I think it was out of sheer luck more than anything. A less savvy person would have likely taken the notification at face value and left it at that.

I searched around for what to do in this situation and came across many reports of this type of scam, where an unknown sender "accidentally" sends payment, request a payment from me for the money back, and simultaneously cancels the transaction. I did nothing and hoped the issue would resolve itself.

Two days later, I get an email saying my Venmo account has been frozen "due to recent activity that appears to be a violation of our User Agreement." After reaching out to Venmo via chat, I had a similar interaction as the article. They told me my account was frozen, that my case was being handled by an Account Specialist, and that would be in touch via email.

The next day I got an email from the Account Specialist saying my actions and activity were in violation of the ToS and that my account was permanently deactivated.

I reached out to support again and played dumb, saying I received payment from a stranger but can't send the money back because my balance didn't go up. Support again said they couldn't do anything, that my account was frozen by an Account Specialist, and that they would be in touch via email.

The Account Specialist sent me an email saying the payment was refunded and that I should reach out to the sender directly, to which I responded that I didn't know who the sender was and I assumed the payments were made in error and asking them to confirm that I had to take no further action. They responded with a form email saying my account had been unfrozen. "However, please keep in mind that the state of your account can be revised if your transaction history raises flags on our system in the future."

A co-worker's PayPal was frozen because he sent me money for lunch. We went Little Havana[1], his note on the transaction was "Little havana". PayPal held the transaction and froze the account because he used the word "havana".


Mirrors the experience of one of my friends. Venmo took almost a year to clear a 10$ transaction because the note said "Persian restaurant".

I guess you're lucky your account wasn't frozen too?

It honestly may have been, I had no money in it, and didn't try to do anything with it until after the money came through when I transferred it out.

It's absurd that there isn't an option in Venmo to reject all transactions from people who aren't friends. If someone's Venmo profile is public I could send them money with the note "Drugs deal to fund terrorist activities." and there is nothing they could do to stop it. Might be a good way to mess with someone you don't like, especially if they carry a balance on Venmo.

And this is why it’s so scary that our societies are moving towards using such private companies for basically core infrastructure of society.

If the government fucks up, I have an easy way of appealing, everything is clearly defined.

If venmo or PayPal fucks up, I have to sue over country lines, argue an international case, and still have no recourse.

That's why it is so infuriating when people respond to any criticism with "well just stop doing business with them!" That's fine until it isn't.

We have exactly one hospital in town. We have exactly one ambulance company in town. We have two medi-vac helicopter providers but you don't get to pick. We have one garbage company (Waste Management) that you're legally required to use in a residential property. One power/gas utility. One water utility.

All of those are private companies, but I have zero ability to switch. There's no competition. They're completely monopolistic either through regulation or naturally. If this is healthy capitalism I'd hate to see unhealthy.

Garbage pickup is particularly galling. It used to be public, government employees, with no profit motive. You had a complaint process. For ideological or "campaign contribution" reasons politicians gave it away to Waste Management, complaints are now handled by nobody, and fees climb year upon year.

> That's why it is so infuriating when people respond to any criticism with "well just stop doing business with them!"

God, I hate that phrase. There's a grain of truth to it, in certain contexts, but at this point its just an unthinking regurgitation used to protect the utterer from uncomfortable realities.

Would it be possible for someone else to start their own garbage company or hospital with minimum government interference? If not, then you are already seeing "unhealthy capitalism."

If the ToS requires you to waive your right to sue in exchange for binding arbitration, you can't even sue, you instead have to go to a private judge chosen by the party that wronged you.

There is no conflict of interest there.

I am curious to discover more about such scenarios. My understanding was that they generally use American Arbitrator's Association and do not have a say on what kind of arbitrator gets assigned to them.

This doesn't help when the entire arbitration system is biased towards corporations. They are the ones providing them with repeat business.

The proceedings are secret, the rules of arbitration are arbitrary and capricious, and you have no legal recourse if you run into bias, favoritism, conflict of interest, grotesque and willful misinterpretation of the law, or just plain old injustice.

If you actually want a low-cost, low-friction way to fairly resolve simple disputes, we already have such a system. It's called small claims court. Arbitration takes the scales of justice, and puts a pound of flesh on one side of the scale.

There's still a conflict of interest there - arbitration will only continue to be used if it provides a more favourable outcome than going to the courts.

> If the government fucks up, I have an easy way of appealing, everything is clearly defined.

So very optimistic. My wife is a foreigner, so she must deal with visas and visa extensions and paperwork and still being brought by immigration officials into tiny rooms and grilled about her paperwork despite everything being correct whenever she comes back from abroad. Our children are citizens of one or possibly two different countries, depending on whose government you ask. I could give plenty more examples but don't want to give up too much personal info. "Clearly defined?" What a laugh.

Have you ever tried appealing anything Google does?

At least with the government you can get someone to talk to.

Google doesn't even have a phone number you can call, or someone you can go to.

They decide, and you just have to accept it.

And you don't even know what you allegedly did wrong, and can't prevent it in the future due to that.

Does Venmo have many international users in practice? Venmo's terms of service require that you be a US resident physically in the US in order to use it, so I'm not sure how things would go if someone from or in another country were to try a lawsuit or arbitration relating to Venmo.

But I agree with your broader point, both in general and about Venmo and PayPal. They are shady enough companies that I don't have a Venmo account, leave my PayPal account dormant with no bank accounts linked, and opted out of arbitration when PayPal added that.

Most people are also unaware: PayPal owns Venmo.

And this is why it’s so scary that our societies are moving towards using such private companies for basically core infrastructure of society.

One might turn this on its head, and suspect that this loss of agency might be the entire point of society changing in this way. TPTB have heard quite enough from the little people, thank you very much.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact