A PayPal mystery


A loyal reader of this column has come to me with a problem that I, in turn, am submitting to all of you. He sells downloadable software over the Internet but lately some customers have been ordering, paying, downloading, yet not requesting the required unlocking key to use their software. Money is piling-up in the reader’s PayPal account and he is starting to worry this is some kind of scam. But if it is, it’s a scam that’s new to me.

The first such order was placed on June 4th and there have been 20 such customers so far, though some of those customers have placed double orders so the total amount is $1,758. The reader is in the USA but the orders have come from Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, France, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Japan, and Israel. Nobody has requested an unlocking key and nobody has requested a refund.

Now it gets stranger. All the orders used legitimate-looking e-mail addresses, yet all except one address bounced back as invalid. The PayPal transactions, however, all went through. PayPal is scratching its digital head, too, saying they have no idea what’s happening.

As an experiment the reader raised the price of his product from $79 to $790. No sales happened at the higher price but then an order went to an alternate distributor who charges $99. Again, no request for an unlocking key. The alternate distributor supplies my reader with an IP address for each transaction and the bogus (is bogus even the right term for this?) order that came through this channel was from, which is apparently in Belgium.

Fearing there’s another shoe to fall my reader has pulled his money out of PayPal except for enough to cover refund requests -- should they happen -- from these weird transactions.

Have you seen anything like this before? What’s going on?

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