PayPal, one of the world’s favorite and most popular payment platforms allows buyers to send money to sellers virtually, without involving personal checking, debit card, or credit card numbers. PayPal is safe, widely accepted, and seamless when paying for items online.
For a long time, Lebanese businesses and individuals have struggled to buy and sell online as the platform was unavailable in the country.
Back in early 2013, the then general manager of PayPal Middle East – Elias Ghanem – stood up at the ArabNet Beirut conference and made an announcement that brought the whole crowd to life: “Egypt, he said, would have PayPal within months, while Lebanon would have it before the end of 2013.”
A year on from announcement, PayPal said that it has ‘no plans’ for launch in Lebanon, puzzling the whole country.
Since then, there hasn’t been any update on the issue, until now.
While I was strolling through my Facebook feed of everyday boring things this afternoon, I stumbled upon this:
Wow! That was the first thing I thought to myself, and not in a positive way knowing that if this news was legit, it would have been on every major Lebanese website’s homepage.
For the everyday Lebanese individual, the above Facebook post appears awesome, right? I mean, who wouldn’t want to have access to the wonderful world of PayPal and everything it has to offer? Pay, get paid, go shopping on eBay and a whole bunch of online stores, it’s a dream come true!
For the somewhat skeptical, the post smells a bit odd.
OSL (Online Services Lebanon) claims that for the low price of just $30, they’ll setup a brand new PayPal account for you, get it verified, and even load $10 into your account for you. To get things started however, you need to send a picture of your Lebanese ID over Whatsapp. That sounds completely safe, and not sketchy at all.
According to the OSL, once your account is full setup, you’ll have the freedom to withdraw whatever funds you have to your Lebanese bank account (via a virtual MasterCard issued in the UAE).
Again, for the average Lebanese individual who knows no better, this is a wonderful opportunity considering the low price, but here’s the problem with all this.
You’re firstly sending across sensitive information (your ID) to a random business that will setup a PayPal account on your behalf. You will then be accessing PayPal from Lebanon, using an account based in the UAE, and linked to a UAE issued virtual MasterCard.
I know what you’re thinking. So what?
I’m going to assume that you know better than to send sensitive information to strangers (especially over Whatsapp) and dive into the next point.
Based on PayPal’s User Agreement (an agreement that every registered PayPal user must agree to when signing up), down in section 9.1 p (Restricted Activities), it clearly states that:
In connection with your use of our website, your Account, the Services, or in the course of your interactions with PayPal, other Users, or third parties, you will not: Access the Services from a country that is not included on PayPal’s permitted countries list.
What does that mean? In simple English, accessing PayPal from Lebanon (even if your account was 100% genuine, valid and yours to be begin with) is a breach of their user agreement, making it illegal. It’s even illegal if you were to access PayPal through a VPN, as your original location of access would still be Lebanon.
PayPal even states that accessing your account in another country (even if your account setup location and current access location are both in permitted countries) is also illegal.
Breaching any of PayPal’s terms will eventually (and usually not too long after) lead to your account becoming “Limited” or “Suspended” based on your breach. At this point, it leaves your account useless as you will no longer be able to send, receive, withdraw or do anything useful with your account, so any balance in your account will be frozen for good. (A good business model for the guys at OSL though, as you’ll have to buy a brand new account, probably with a different ID or virtual MasterCard this time.)
To sum things up, please be careful online and watch out for unethical promises.
PayPal isn’t really available in Lebanon, but as soon as it is, we’ll be the first to let you know so stay connected!