Like most of you, I had always thought my online Pay Pal transactions were secure, but they’re not — at least not if you purchase an intangible product such as an eBook, an online course or a service.
If there is no physical product that can be returned, you can lose your money. You may even lose the Pay Pal service fee that facilitated your transaction.
This is very disturbing to me especially since Pay Pal goes out of its way to promote its safety features. After all, it’s the “safer way to pay.” A closer look at its buyer protection policy clearly states, however, that only physical products apply. Ineligible items include services, digital products, custom made items, gift cards and money sent for personal reasons.
Perhaps the reason this policy had me confused was because I had filed disputes in the past through Pay Pal for services that I had paid for, but never received. In most cases, the seller refunded me my money. It was pointed out to me by a Pay pal service representative, however, that Pay Pal will act as a mediator between buyer and seller even for transactions that do not meet their eligibility requirements. It’s up to the seller to comply with the refund request, but they don’t have to.
Case in Point
I had recently bought a $97 product called Social Lead Freaks from a company called Ali G. Marketing (not to be confused with the Sacha Baron Cohen character, though that name should have been a warning to me). Social Lead Freaks was designed to target leads in Facebook and it appeared that others were having some success with the product. Having a 30 day money back guarantee policy, I decided to give it a try. So I purchased the product and used it extensively over the next three weeks with no real success.
Approaching the end of the 30 day trial period, I decided to make a request for my refund. Ali G. did not comply at first and instead, offered me another product for $97 with some kind of bonus attached. I declined and asked again for my refund. In fact, I requested my refund three additional times and received no response. The seller did, however, deny me further access to the product.
So why would Ali G. ignore my refund request and keep my money yet prevent me from accessing his product? More on that in a bit.
Manipulating Pay Pal Policies
I made my case to Pay Pal and they opened a dispute, which was escalated after I spoke with a Pay Pal representative at length about my situation. The seller had ten days to respond to the dispute. Oddly, on day nine of that period, Ali G. finally responded to Pay Pal and indicated they would comply with my request as long as I shipped the product back to him. According to Pay Pal’s terms I needed to provide proof that the item was shipped—complete with a delivery tracking code—in order to receive my refund.
This was a trick maneuver by Ali G. Marketing. He was well aware that the item was a digital product and couldn’t be shipped back, therefore making it impossible to show proof. Pay Pal would close the case with no further action, which was Ali’s plan the whole time. Admittedly, a smart play by Ali G. to avoid having to honor his own refund guarantee. Having no recourse, Pay Pal closed the case and I was still without my refund.
My complaints to Pay Pal representatives and supervisors had little effect. I was not going to get my money back even though I was acting in full compliance with Social Lead Freaks’ refund policy.
Take That to the Bank
My next step was to approach the bank from which Pay Pal draws my funds for such transactions. The bank was very helpful and began their own ten day investigation. Ali G. could use his Pay Pal tricks, but none of that works with Wells Fargo. After ten days, I received my refund and issued a formal complaint to the bank and with Pay Pal. It may not matter much, but both Wells Fargo and Pay Pal have noted the potential fraud by Ali G. Marketing.
After two months, I finally have my $97 back. It’s not an earth shattering amount, but it confirms what I have long since known about most internet marketers and should be the moral of this story. Why would Ali G., another internet marketer claiming to make hundreds of thousands of dollars online, go through so much trouble over just $97? This took effort, manipulation and deceit on his end. Why would he bother with it? Why not just issue the refund and move on?
“Buy my product! Internet marketers around the globe are making six figures a month!”
Having been in this business for over five years now, I know with certainty that most of the earning claims by internet marketers are untruthful —at least those with which I have experience. Ali G. doesn’t respect his own refund policy because he can’t afford to lose $97. He’s a fraud like many digital product sellers and he’s using our ignorance of Pay Pal dispute policies to violate his own 30-day guarantee.
What to Do
In my next post, I’ll address the ways you can make sure your purchase of digital products are as secure as possible through Pay Pal. Nothing is foolproof, but with a few precautions, you should be able to get your money back if you’re not satisfied with your purchase.