Are you losing customers because of PayPal?

Do you have a significant number of uncompleted e-commerce sales and online shopping cart abandonments? Are you wondering why so many customers leave your website and never finish their purchase transaction? Apart from website errors, technical glitches and personal reasons, there may be another problem: PayPal. I wrote this article after I noticed it's been the third time in one month I had to abandon my intention to purchase products from online sellers, leave their websites and look for the same goods elsewhere. All because there was no other payment option but PayPal.

According to the latest research, 23% of shoppers will drop a checkout process if they are requested to register with the website, additional 12% will leave when they are asked for too much personal information.

In other words, customers want a quick, simple, non-intrusive checkout process that will not demand more personal information than it is really necessary for fulfilling the order. And while PayPal's so-called “guest” checkout may sound like a good option for the customers who don't want to register or sign up; when it comes to respecting customer privacy, PayPal may be the worst possible solution, intrusive and misleading, as the “no PayPal account” option is not what it seems.

PayPal is infamous for their identity verification requirements that both violate the privacy and compromise the security of their customers. Those who have a PayPal account are familiar with emails demanding to submit a copy of their photo ID, driver's license, passport, utility bill or social security card to prove their name, address, date of birth, national tax ID or social security number. Many also have a first-hand experience with their accounts being suspended, money locked away, or some account functions disabled. However, PayPal's modus operandi affects not only those who signed up of their own volition. Privacy infringements are also concerning those who have never had nor ever intended to have anything to do with PayPal.

Many businesses use PayPal services to accept payments on their websites. PayPal claims to be a faster, safer way to pay and get paid online, and while it may be convenient for people who already have a PayPal account and don't care about their privacy violated, PayPal can be of a great inconvenience to others and lead to the loss of new customers.

Many feel that PayPal is imposed on people: it is widely used and some businesses offer PayPal payment processing as the only way to pay for their goods and services. PayPal boasts on its website: Founded in December 1998, PayPal is the leading global online payment company. PayPal has 117 million active registered accounts and is available in 190 markets.

117 million active registered accounts is an impressive number, and, at first glance, it justifies the ubiquitous obtrusion: it seems reasonable for a seller to presume that the customer either already has a PayPal account or is eager to create one. However, let's take a closer look at which came first — the chicken or the egg. Is PayPal imposed on people because it is so big, or is it so big because it is imposed?

Is PayPal really as big and safe as it claims?

Let' investigate.

When we found the product or service we need, and made the decision the seller has been striving for — to purchase the product — we press the Buy Now button and proceed to the checkout page. If PayPal is involved, the checkout page offers two options:

So far so good. If the buyer already has a PayPal account, the purchase proceeds trough PayPal as usual.

The trouble starts when the person doesn't have a PayPal account nor has any desire to get one.

PayPal demands too much personal information

Let's suppose we don't want to get entangled with PayPal in any way, but we could tolerate them processing this one-off transaction because we do want to buy that product. So we choose the “Don't have a PayPal account? Pay with your credit or debit card” option, and face a long and intimidating form:

Intimidating and intrusive PayPal checkout form asks for too much personal information.
Long and intrusive PayPal checkout form that demands too much personal information.

Differences between reasonable payment processors and the paranoid PayPal are obvious:

The demands and restrictions in this checkout form was the point when I decided I will not trust my personal information to a paranoid, data-hoarding money monster, but the curiosity and the attitude of a privacy advocate enticed me to interview a few people, do some online research and investigate the matter further.

Fine-print, PayPal style: some of the information below was obtained from other people and was not verified by the author's own personal experience. Please contact the author if you notice any discrepancies, and the corrections will be made.

PayPal makes misleading claims

Let's suppose we are still okay to give up the convenience and security of having the purchase delivered to our PO box. We enter our full legal name, residential address and phone number, supplied our credit card details, email address, and... on the following page PayPal demands our date of birth. No other online checkout service ever asks for that! PayPal deceitfully states Australian Government requires us to collect your date of birth. This is false! Date of birth is not legally required for making online payments, and never has been. Moreover, the date of birth is often used by Australian Government agencies as an identity verification point, and, contrary to PayPal's statements, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (ex Office of the Privacy Commissioner) strongly recommends not to disclose it to anyone online.

The same happens in other countries: PayPal claims that it is the government requirement to demand personal information such as date of birth, residential address, photo IDs and other documentary proof while no other online payment services in those countries requires this information, nor can PayPal supply the name or number of the statute of the law that allegedly requires them to violate the privacy of people in such manner.

PayPal tricks people into signing up and creating an account they don't want

Now, let's try to be vigilant and read through the extremely long fine-print in Combined Financial Services Guide and Product Disclosure Statement, User Agreement and Privacy Policy (the tiny links at the bottom of that intimidating PayPal payment form). After all, the User Agreement is an important document (along with our Combined Financial Services Guide and Product Disclosure Statement) which you must consider carefully when using PayPal's Services — quoted from the PayPal User Agreement. Part 2, paragraph 4 of the Combined Financial Services Guide and Product Disclosure Statement says: When you register to use the PayPal Service, we will open a PayPal account in your name.

What registration? What account?? So confusing... We just want to pay this one time and get the product, we don't want to spend five hours reading the endless fine-print or sign up for anything!

If we keep reading, PayPal continues talking about registering for PayPal services, signing up and accounts. And if we continue through the privacy violation process (aka PayPal checkout), we can eventually make the payment. However, at the end it becomes clear that PayPal will retain all the transaction details including the full credit card details. After that, PayPal will send a series of manipulative emails to coerce the buyer to provide a password and, if they do so, they will end up with a PayPal account pre-filled with their personal info PayPal harvested during the purchase. PayPal keeps the data in its database for a long time, even if the customer does not create a PayPal account. The data is kept ready for a future account creation, “just in case”.

So, if PayPal is involved, the real payment options are:

PayPal extorts more personal data from those who signed up

If the customers gives in and allows a PayPal account to be created, after some time of account inactivity, PayPal unfolds a targeted campaign to push the customer into getting “verified”. PayPal will abuse the email address and personal data it already collected and send emails to extract more private information from the victim:

PayPal is constantly working to ensure security by regularly screening the accounts in our system. We recently reviewed your account, and we need more information to help us provide you with a secure service. Until we can collect this information, your access to sensitive account features will be limited. We would like to restore your access as soon as possible, and we apologise for the inconvenience.

Why is my account access limited?

Your account access has been limited for the following reason(s):

[Date] We noticed some unusual activity on a credit card linked to your PayPal account.

As a security precaution to protect your account until we have more details from you, we've place a limitation on your account.

An email from PayPal

In this email, PayPal claims that they have access to the customer's credit card account and can see some unusual activity there. PayPal is attempting to scare and manipulate the customer into a deeper relationship with them. PayPal will not give up: these emails may persist for years. After all, PayPal has to reach their next target — 118 million registered accounts, then 119 million, and so on.

With PayPal, what should be a one-minute purchase, becomes an hours-long ordeal of filling forms and reading the fine-print, and a years-long struggle with personal data retention and abuse.

PayPal puts the customers at risk of identity theft

PayPal tries to disguise this behaviour under a standard bunch of excuses, such as to protect privacy and security of the customers, to offer businesses a convenient tool for accepting payments, and to represent a faster, safer way to pay and get paid online. Protect privacy? That's what PO boxes are for, which PayPal doesn't allow. So, it is definitely not about privacy.

PayPal insists that their service allows people to send money without sharing financial information, with the flexibility, but in reality there is no flexibility and, while the financial information may not be passed to the seller, PayPal will email out the customers' personal information such as residential addresses and full legal names to the sellers. How this information will be kept and used after that, nobody knows. This may jeopardise personal safety more than any disclosure of financial information. PayPal claims to protect the customers' financial information, such as credit card number, yet they readily disclose a lot of personal data with every single transaction: while the credit card number stays hidden, your name, residential address, phone number and e-mail address are transmitted to the sellers. PayPal doesn't want people to realise that a bank card number is very easy to chance if you suspect it might have fallen in the wrong hands, but you can't change your name and home address every time some dishonest company misuses it.

Nobody in their sound mind would give their full legal name, home address, phone number and e-mail every single time they pay in a supermarket, petrol station or a restaurant. So, though PayPal may offer some minimal protection of financial information, they collect and share enough of your private information for a full-blown identity theft.

PayPal looks “big” by deception

Any careful customer can see through the smoke-screen and sense an enormous money-making machine that intrudes people's privacy, deceives, lies, forces its customers to disclose unnecessary personal data and tricks people into creating unwanted accounts. And any careful merchant should realise that PayPal uses them as a free recruiter by essentially forcing their prospective customers to sign up for PayPal.

You can see how PayPal managed to get their 117 million accounts: people end up with PayPal accounts against their initial intentions.

Always offer your customers an alternative payment option

If you run an online businesses, you can see now how you can be losing your customers to PayPal's way of operating. It is obvious that a reasonable business should always offer their customers an alternative to PayPal for making payments.

In my case, I have given up my intention to make the online purchase and nearly left the fourth seller's website this month, but luckily the company was located in Australia, so I was able to contact them. The poor guys were shocked to learn that having PayPal as a single option was harming their business. They were happy to receive my payment via direct bank deposit, thus completely avoiding PayPal with its intrusive forms, and send my purchase to my PO box.

From “You don't need to have a PayPal account to make a payment” to “We need your driver's license or passport”

To many of those who, willingly or not, ended up with a PayPal account this email looks painfully familiar:

Dear <name>,

We need your help resolving an issue with your PayPal account.

What's the problem?

Before we can offer you certain products and services, federal regulations require that we collect specific information to verify your identity. This information includes your name, address, date of birth, and National Tax ID or Social Security number. We haven't been able to verify your identity using the information you provided, so we need some additional documentation from you.
Until this issue is resolved, you'll be able to log in to your PayPal account but you might not be able to add money to it or use some of your account features.

How can you help?

It's usually pretty easy to take care of things like this. Most of the time, we just need a little more information about your account or latest transactions.
Please log in to your account and go to the Resolution Center to find out what you need to do.

1. Photo ID

To help confirm your identity, please send us a copy of your photo ID that shows your name and address. Waiting for your response link: "resolve"
At the 'Resolve' link PayPal says this:
PayPal requires a copy of certain documents for verification purposes to return your account to regular standing. Please submit each of the following documents:
Valid photo ID:
* Driver's License
* Passport
* Military Identification Card
Please make sure that the documentation you provide is up-to-date and legible. The name and address on your documentation must correspond with the information registered on your PayPal account. Your documentation cannot be older than 6 months. Send only documents received by mail (online statements cannot be accepted). Send all the information and documents required as soon as possible to complete the review process.

2. Proof of Address

To confirm your address, please send us a copy of a bill that shows your name and address. Helpful documents include a utility bill, a cell phone bill, an insurance bill, or a tuition bill.
At the 'Resolve' link:
Please submit each of the following documents:
Proof of address:
*Utility Bill
Please make sure that the documentation you provide is up-to-date and legible. The name and address on your documentation must correspond with the information registered on your PayPal account. Your documentation cannot be older than 6 months. Send only documents received by mail (online statements cannot be accepted). Send all the information and documents required as soon as possible to complete the review process.

3. Provide Proof Of SSN

Provide documentation that shows your Social Security number. Helpful documents include a copy of your Social Security card, a pay stub, or a government-issued document.
At the 'Resolve' link:
Please provide the documents requested below. We'll review your account status after we receive the information we've requested.
Provide proof of Social Security number:
1. Your documents need to be valid and legible.
2. The submitted information on the documents must correspond with the information on your PayPal account.
3. Documents can't be older than 6 months.
4. We will handle your information in accordance with our privacy policy


Isn't this a bit too much for something that started as a one-off payment on a website that promised that PayPal does not require you to have a PayPal account to make a payment, this is an optional step? If your privacy, security and low levels of stress are important to you, it may be a very good idea to think twice before dealing with a website that accepts payments through PayPal only.

Apparently, PayPal sends emails like this even to the customers who have been using their PayPal account for more than a decade. The person who forwarded me the text has been using PayPal since 1999 and said: I called Paypal and was told that it was not Paypal requiring these documents, but it was the federal (US) government. When I asked why no other online retailers required this level of information, I received no answer. When I asked what statute of US law required this, they put me on hold for about 5 minutes and then told me they could not find it.


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I wish I found this page earlier. As I didn't, I fell for PayPal's lies and dirty tricks. I will never use them again, but I wish I could make them delete all my personal data they gouged out of me.

Dean, 19 February 2016

My first attempt to use PayPal became my last. Will not be using them after going through their long and convoluted process drip feeding me with further requests for info. Thanks for the article.

Anonymous, 10 August 2020

Amazingly, this article written 8 years ago is still true and relevant. While the PayPal form now looks different, their MO hasn't changed. I'd say it became worse, because we now allegedly have terrorists, money launderers and paedophiles lurking behind every lamp post, and therefore every government and corporation sees this as an opportunity to trample down the remnants of human rights and privacy.

Anonymous, 7 October 2020

This article is spot on, but most of us learned the hard way. Almost a decade later, the cyber$$$ world is an even uglier data-grab hell. Any and all pretexts to extract personal info are employed.
(Would this be the norm if the Facebook generation hadn't been so eager to put it all out there? Those of us who value privacy are up the creek.)
After notifying PayPal that its "checkout" page was an unacceptable bully form that abused our customers, of course it was unresponsive to us, the client. We're yet to find a payment processor that doesn't act like a pimp.

John Q Merchant, USA, 30 March 2021

Thank you for the article. This is exactly what you get when you start using PayPal. Crap company.

Amogus, 12 January 2022

I made my first payment using Paypal recently, on the basis that it was supposedly more secure than paying with a credit card. Then I too received the intrusive demands described in the above article, but now, they also ask if you're "politically exposed" ... What the...?!
I'm never using this form of payment again!

Michael, 4 March 2022

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