Online Payment Processors, Enablers of Scams
Greggory B. Evans, PhD
Recently it came to light that online payment processor Solid Trust Pay had decided unilaterally to refund some participants in the besieged Autosurf ASD Cash Generator. In doing so, it appears they may have violated Canadian abandoned accounts regulations, but even if by some quirk of lightly regulated Canadian processors, this policy is ripe for abuse and almost assuredly resulted in inequitable treatment. ASD accepted payments from any number of methods, including direct deposits into bank accounts, as well as other online payment processors. In giving refunds based solely upon their own records, STP has no way of knowing if they are refunding people who are in fact otherwise in profit and made withdrawals from other processors. If these funds had been in the United States, where ASD assets were seized last August, this money would have been pooled into a consolidated estate and according to statements from the Justice Department, been available for refunds to losers in the scam, refunds based upon the complete records of ASD, from all sources.
Another apparent problem with STP’s refund policy is it flies in the face of traditional practice, where merchants who have funds that belong to customers who have no activity have absolute rights to their property for periods that range from 7 years in most US States, up to the Canadian Policy that abandoned accounts in excess of $1000 of ten years at the merchant, and an additional period of up to 90 years, or indefinitely. Accounts of more than $100 but less than $1000 are retained by merchants in Canada for 10 years, and then turned over to the Canadian Central Bank, where they are held for 30 more years. The stated policy of Solid Trust Pay is to consider accounts “inactive” after 180 days, at which point they have in at least this case refunded some, but apparently not all, of the remaining funds in an account to the accounts from which it arrived. Their method of determining how much each participant receives is not known, and from personal knowledge of mine, some participants receive no refund at all.
The reasons for this, the formula for determining refunds, and any fees STP retains for their trouble is not clear. It’s also not exactly clear that Canada, or Ontario where STP is located, place any limit on the fees a payment processor can charge, and in fact it may be perfectly legal for them to keep the biggest share of the funds and claim it as fees. Well, except for the unclaimed funds laws, which apparently they we unaware of. A poster here who identified herself as a representative of STP claimed that their refund policy had the approval of their attorney. I find that hard to believe, it sounds more to me like they didn’t realize that all merchants have to comply with laws that most people not versed in business practices don’t even know exist. It seems to me that a lot of what the processors do is much like the ponzi schemes they support, made up as they go along. In the same post, the STP representative said that they try to screen their customers for legitimate businesses. This is a claim I find laughable at best.
STP and other online payment processors exist in, support, and largely make possible the easy money ponzi scheme culture of HYIP and Autosurf programs. Without them, the “industry” could not exist. Scammers, crooks and money launderers need a transfer system that provides irreversible payments, and they also provide some measure of invisibility for the “Admins” of online money scams. Regulations in Canada have tightened up the invisible part, but these processors are still providing one stop shopping for ponzi schemes, Autosurfs, and you can be sure any number of criminals who at least have the sense to keep their activities a bit more low key.
But I digress. Let’s look at some of the customers STP has had in the past, these pillars of business who they were very careful to check and make sure they were legitimate businesses. Aside from ASD, some of their more notable clients are P2P, or Pathway to Prosperity, an internet HYIP Ponzi whose leader is currently wanted in Canada and is a fugitive from Justice. Mega lido was also an STP customer, this program popped up right around the time ASD was raided, and played to the ASD crowd as a way to recoup their losses. Mrs. VIP/Global Marketing Solutions was another STP supported program, they suspended payments when they said they got new owners in December, the payments were supposed to begin again in 6-8 weeks, it’s been 7 months and no sign yet of them resuming payments. Another one I’m researching is DR Fund, a program heavily promoted by Jake Amedee and friends over at ASA Monitor, which is itself a clearing house for fraud and ponzi schemes. I could name dozens more of these “legitimate” businesses, which I’m sure STP knows have stolen tens of millions of dollars from the public, much of it money from people who were told they were investing in real businesses, and of course, with their assurance that they screen their customers, STP is at least partly responsible for those losses. At least more so than Bank of America, named in the RICO lawsuit brought by some ASD victims.
What I cannot do, at least not with a few months of research looking, is name one single legitimate business that accepts payment from Solid Trust Pay. Not a one. Meanwhile, in a reply to a post I made asking questions about their business practices, the STP spokesperson whined about customers complaining about their policies on refunds. A quick look in the forums where ponzi scams are promoted will reveal that when a program suspends payments for a short period of time, people begin discussing where and how they can get the payment processors to consider refunds. In short, payment processors should never give refunds directly to the people who play these scams. Legally, until a court of competent jurisdiction says otherwise, the money still belongs to the person who owns the account.
Any unilateral action by the processors short circuits the legal rights of whomever the money rightfully belongs too, whether that is the scammer, or if the authorities so determine, the victims of the scam. But that’s not a decision the money handlers should or even could make with any fairness. A few situations like that and it’s likely the participants will begin as a practice making all deposits with the processor most liberal in refund history, and all withdrawals from another account.
So what. Tell your customers you cannot refund their payments, the whole point of your business is irreversible payments. Granted, your customers are for the most part people who play scams for whatever reasons; most of them have no regard for the people who lose in order for them to make profits. They engage in illegal money frauds, and now they want the protection that “real” businesses afford them. Too bad. They’re in a lousy industry for fairness or ethical business practices. The same goes for STP and the other payment processors who cater to HYIPs, auto surfs and unregistered online investing. You built your business on being the pseudo legal link in criminal enterprises. You might, and I stress the word might, be following the letter of the law. Or you may be trying to stay on the legal side of the law and due to your own ignorance be falling a little short, as I suspect your refund policy does.
But let me ask, if your grandmother asked about your business, and wanted the full unadulterated truth about the things you do, would you feel good telling her? Would you be proud explaining at the family reunion how you make your money? And not the best face you can put on it, you have to imagine telling granny about every single program you accommodated that turned out to be a cheap ponzi scheme, how many millions of dollars were lost be people who risked more than they could afford to lose, how many marriages fell apart, homes were lost, children missed meals, and how you make it possible for this industry to thrive? I suspect not. Further, if you really can with a straight face tell me you’re actually proud of the misery you help cause, I suspect you might be a sociopath, and you might have sold your granny out for a few fees.
I’m calling you out, Solid Trust Pay. I double dog dare you to tell the crooks who utilize your services to hit the road. Hire a compliance auditor who knows how to do a little due diligence, and by that I don’t mean checking at ASA Monitor to see how many “I got paid” posts there are, but someone who knows enough about accounting, law, business and investing to look at what a company is doing and what it’s just claiming to do. I ask, no, let me rephrase that, I DEMAND you make your refund policy transparent and I’ll be checking with the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee to find out what the exact law is on your policy and asking them to give your practices a look as well. I also feel very strongly that you should disclose the fees you took on the refunds not only from ASD, but also Mega Lido and any other funds you decided to return. Court records indicate that ASD moved several million dollars to you days before they were raided, but I see only a pittance in refunds. Granted, not every participant posts their refunds, but surely if you returned a few millions we’d see an aggregate of more than a few thousand dollars in discussions.
You enable an entire industry of crime. Eventually, the regulations will catch up to you.