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PayPal freezes out British user in 'terror' list snafu

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PayPal has frozen Brit Mohammed Hassan's account and banned him from using the service if he refuses to fax the company a raft of personal information.

The online payments service told him his name is "similar to or a match to" a name on the US government's anti-terror assets freezing list.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN) is operated by the US Treasury and designed to prevent money laundering and funding of illegal organisations.

The SDN list is here (.pdf). It contains hundreds of names, including Osama Bin Laden and a Tunisian named Mohamed Hassan.

Register reader Mohammed received the following email last week:

Access to your PayPal account has been denied because your name is similar to or a match to an entry on the Office of Foreign Assets Control Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. We are required to further verify your identity. In order to regain access to your account, please provide the following documentation:

1. A copy of government-issued photograph identification (i.e. passport, driver's license).

2. A copy of a utility bill verifying your address

3. A copy of a document verifying your date and place of birth.

Please fax the information to +1 303-395-2802, Attention: Compliance. The documents may also be mailed to the following address:

PayPal, Attention: Compliance P.O. Box 45950 Omaha, NE 68145, United States

Please provide the requested information within the next 30 days. If this information is not received within the next 30 days, your PayPal account will be closed.

We contacted PayPal with a series of questions. They confirmed that in Mohammed Hassan's case, his account will be closed unless he faxes his passport to them - action he told us he is not willing to take on priniciple. Unlike banks, PayPal does not require identity verification to set up an account.

PayPal refused to provide any details of how many customers the bans are affecting, or whether the policy had led to any genuine terrorist assets being seized.

Mohammed works for the UK government, in a job which requires security clearance. He said: "I am not a terrorist or a criminal. How the hell can PayPal link me to that name on the SDN list, is it because my name is Arabic? Or is it because PayPal are just plain stupid?" ®

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