paypal1I got a call this week from PayPal Executive Escalation, which I didn’t even know existed and certainly wouldn’t have guessed would be based in Omaha, Nebraska. This was either in response to my PayPal account being restricted as I described in my last column or — much more likely — to the simple fact that I’d made such a stink about it in print. The guy who called was very polite and helpful, too, but what I learned was also disturbing enough that I feel the need to share it with you.

“Do you use an anonymizer?” asked the guy from PayPal. I don’t use an anonymizer, which masks IP addresses, and told him so. Then he explained to me that the account restriction had come because of a pattern of my PayPal account being accessed from countries including Ukraine and the Czech Republic. But the final straw for PayPal, he told me, was the account being accessed from what he called “a sanctioned country” which I’m guessing means Iran or maybe North Korea.

I had clearly been hacked even though I’ve never shared my PayPal account details with anyone.

“Have you recently changed your password?” he asked.

“Of course I have, you made me change it,” I replied. Surely he knew this and it was just another identity test for me.

Forcing a password change was the equivalent of armoring airliner cockpit doors after 9/11. That alone probably enabled the eventual reopening of my PayPal account.

Now here’s the problem as I see it and the reason for this column: prior to this call nobody at PayPal ever told me I’d been hacked, nor did they even warn me that I might have been hacked. What PayPal told me in its original communication was that my account had been “chosen at random for verification.”

Chosen at random.

Random my ass.

At best that was dissembling, but my Mama would have called it a lie.

So I looked in the ever-changing PayPal terms of service and couldn’t find anywhere a clause that said something like, “we may from time to time lie to you or withhold information important to the safety of your account.”

I can’t see any downside for PayPal in simply telling me the truth, can you? Their fear may have been that my account was completely taken over by bad guys so they would have been giving the truth to an enemy. But what would that matter? They’d be telling the bad guys what the bad guys certainly knew already — that I’d been hacked?

If there is a downside for PayPal I’d think it’s more in the possibility that folks like me who’ve been told their accounts were chosen at random when that wasn’t at all the case might file a class action lawsuit against the company.

Then there’s the problem that I e-mailed PayPal using their support system and they didn’t respond. I called using their 855 support number and they never called back (the guy from Omaha claimed not to know about either of these attempts at communication).

As a business PayPal relies on automation to minimize expensive human involvement. This incident with me probably cost them all the profit they’d earned from 15 years of my business. But that’s not my problem.

PayPal needs to dramatically improve its customer service and stop lying to customers.

Maybe they never thought of it that way.

Maybe now they will.