For the past year I have been searching for a particularly gorgeous but horribly expensive Zeiss spotting scope to use in my citizen science work with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory. I’ve been trying to purchase one on Ebay. Used. Set up perfectly the way I want for this particular application.
Finally, my dream scope came available a few days ago at a vintage camera store in Vienna, Australia. I purchased it on Ebay, and then attempted to pay for it via PayPal. The nightmare began when PayPal wouldn’t accept my credit card number, stating that it could only be used for a single account.
There was another account using my American Express number?
Yes. It turns out that, years ago when Ebay was in its infancy, my wife helped them develop their user interface. She conducted a study, in which I participated, where participants were given an Ebay pen and asked to attempt to sell it on the website. Someone (to whom I’m married) monitored our attempt electronically from the other side to determine where the hiccups were. I priced my pen at $1,000 dollars, and when it didn't sell I not only got to keep the pen, but didn't have to deal with PayPal to collect on it.
So, that account has lied dormant for years, so dormant that I forgot that I had it until, recently, someone from Iran attempted to hack into it and PenPal, in the interests of homeland security, shut me down.
They needed info. They needed my driver license, an affidavit that I had no interests in Iran or in Iranian organizations, and a copy of a recent utility bill to prove that I don’t live in the Middle East. And that’s where the problem escalated, because I live in a college dorm and have not had to pay a utility bill since 1998.
I’d like to report, at this point, that the episode ended happily. But it hasn’t. For several days we’ve gone round and round. Me and my pal, PayPal. I just want them to cancel the account, but restricted accounts can’t be cancelled.
The New York Times reported this afternoon that Iran loaded all their enriched uranium onto a Russian freighter, but the world will still not be safe until John Farnsworth comes up with a utility bill so that he can cancel a PayPal account that someone from Iran attempted to access.
Yep. I’m not making any of this up. Happy New Year.
Journal of Natural Hist. Ed.
Natural History Institute
Center for Humans & Nature