StormPay

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StormPay was an electronic money auction payment processor run by Stormpay Incorporated, a Clarksville, Tennessee, United States company founded in October 2002 by John R. McConnell, Jr. and the CEO, Steve Girsky. It allowed anyone with an e-mail address to buy or sell StormPay Auction items after opening an online account.

Steve Girsky is also the registered owner of Clixsense.com, a Paid To Click site also based in Clarksville.

General[edit]

Funding/Depositing[edit]

The currency used in accounts was United States dollars. However, StormPay was not like a bank, where the money in ones account is actually backed by real money. A StormPay user can fund their account with an online check, money order, or by clicking on sponsored links, purchased by StormPay members themselves, in the StormClix section of the StormPay website. StormPay (and NetIBA) have also paid commissions for referring new members to the payment process or verification system.

Fees[edit]

Opening a StormPay account was free. It was also free to send money to another e-mail address. However, a fee was incurred when receiving funds: if the recipient was NetIBA certified, this was 39 cents plus 2.9% of the amount being received; if not, it was 49 cents and 4.9%. This marks a return to the usual fee structure used by most online payment processors that was also used by StormPay before becoming an auction-only site, but the non-certified fee has been reduced from the level in March 2006, which was 69c + 6.9%. Additionally, for a brief period in April and early May 2006, there was no fee for NetIBA certified accounts and it was 2% otherwise.

Certification[edit]

Being NetIBA certified costs $19.95 a year. It was claimed to be a third-party identity verification service. It is also located in Clarksville, Tennessee and registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State by McConnell, indicating that it is not a third-party service. The NetIBA certification process purportedly includes the sending of a PIN by telephone and a PIN by mail, however, users have also reported that the phone step is occasionally skipped. After being certified, webmasters may place an image on their website to display this fact to potential customers. In the NetIBA FAQ, under the question: "What form of payment do you accept?" the following answer is given: "NetIBA accepts StormPay. NetIBA recommends when shopping online that you use services such as StormPay to ensure that your financial information does not end up in the hands of wrong doers."

Withdrawing[edit]

StormPay allows users to withdraw money via a debit card, or the mailing of a personal check. There was a $2 fee for withdrawing with a check and using the debit card incurs various monthly account maintenance and individual withdrawal fees. These individual withdrawal fees are in addition to any charges that may be levied by the bank that owns the ATM used to withdraw money. The debit card is usable Internationally. However, the check is in U.S. Dollars, and costs $20 to be sent by courier, $35 internationally. These fees, and the additional cost of exchanging fees from a US check in other countries, make it not profitable to withdraw by international check unless one's account balance is very high. On 15 May 2006, StormPay added the options to withdraw money directly into U.S. checking accounts with a $1 fee and into e-gold accounts with a StormPay fee of 5% in addition to e-gold fees.

Chargebacks[edit]

StormPay allows the account of a seller to be charged back if the buyer claims non-receipt of the auction item. However, this does not apply to services, as in the Terms of Service. The fee for a chargeback is $35, and, as documented on Money Maker Group Forum, this may cause a negative balance to appear in one's StormPay account. The balance may be restored automatically by StormPay by deducting the necessary funds from one's attached bank account. If one then attempts to charge back StormPay from the bank, StormPay will immediately freeze the account and alter the balance to -$10,000. Excessive complaints by users will also cause an account to be frozen, which prevents the owner from sending or receiving money, but does permit the refunding of money, if available, to previous payers. According to terms, the funds in frozen accounts may be released 180 days after the freezing, however the majority of frozen accounts were suspended in February 2006, and remain suspended.

History[edit]

TymGlobal[edit]

McConnell, one of the founders of StormPay, had previously used the service as the payment processor for a pyramid/ponzi scheme, TymGlobal, in 2002-2003. An order to cease and desist was given by the Tennessee Securities Division. All references to TymGlobal were then removed from StormPay in an attempt to clean up its image, after which it became a general online payment processor usable for any purpose within its Terms of Service. In 2004-2006, StormPay was used almost exclusively by autosurf websites, Paid To Read sites, high-yield investment programs, money randomizers, gifting clubs, and online auction sales.

Controversy with autosurfs[edit]

On 31 January 2006, StormPay formally announced on its website that it would not allow itself to be used on any site which also offered another payment processor, such as PayPal or e-gold. The justification of this move was to prevent the transfer of funds between payment processors, which would increase the likelihood and untraceability of fraudulent money. However, this move was also seen by some as the first step in establishing a monopoly over its niche market. As a result, many autosurf websites elected to remove other payment options, while others elected to remove StormPay. This occurred despite the fact that StormPay, at one time, provided members with the option to fund their StormPay accounts via e-gold.

By 2 February 2006, StormPay had suspended or frozen numerous StormPay accounts, especially those used by the administrators of autosurf sites, seemingly regardless of whether they complied with the original request. Emails sent to StormPay questioning the issue were responded to with the following:

Unfortunately, we are unable to process any further transactions on behalf of the merchant. StormPay Inc. certainly understands your concerns regarding this situation. However, the funds of this merchant were frozen by an outside organization pending further investigation. To protect the integrity of the investigation we are unable to release any details at this time. Once the funds are released, StormPay will release the funds to claimant(s) for disbursement.

On 5 February 2006, StormPay posted a second announcement on their website stating that they had "closed the accounts of what appear to be some major ponzi schemes", because of "results of investigations into those businesses by outside investigational organizations as well as our own internal investigations. As a result, possible victims of these businesses" had conducted distributed denial-of-service attacks against them leading to the recent downtime of their service. This is in contrast to their first announcement, only stated that other payment processors had to be removed. The now defunct autosurf 12DailyPro announced plans to send a lawsuit against StormPay. However, the autosurf was soon discovered to be a ponzi scheme and was ordered to cease and desist.

For a prolonged period spanning February 8 to 10, 2006, the StormPay website was again unavailable due to a DDOS attack.[1]

One result of this controversy is StormPay's conversion to an auction-only site. On 23 March 2006, StormPay announced on its website that it would "no longer accept payments for sales made outside of StormPay Auctions", in order to ensure "a safer online experience for both buyers and sellers" as it would "more closely monitor the products/services sold". This means that all money transferred through StormPay must be accompanied by a product, which StormPay can monitor. As a result, StormPay is no longer usable for "investments" in autosurfs or HYIPs.

The second result of this controversy was Steve Girsky's launch of a second business called Clix Sense. In an attempt to hide his ownership, there is no mention of who owns Clix Sense or runs it and a proxy is used for the name registration.

Being a registered company, records are filed with the Tennessee Department of State and open to public viewing http://www.tennesseeanytime.org/soscorp/details.jsp

Criticisms[edit]

According to a legal firm under contract with the SEC, the digital money balance visible in one's StormPay account is not backed up by money in StormPay's bank accounts. This led to a situation in early 2006 where Stormpay was not able to pay out withdrawals requested by users, and many of the users never received their requested funds. [2]

StormPay no longer accepts credit cards, no doubt due to the massive wave of billing disputes and subsequent chargebacks that occurred as a result of the massive account freezes previously mentioned. The only way to fund a StormPay account is via e-check, which provides none of the consumer protections against fraud and misuse that are statutorily provided to credit card holders.

To date, StormPay has not released the funds it froze back in February 2006, despite StormPay's Terms of Service providing for such funds to be distributed 180 days after being frozen. As a result, many (former) users hold a hostile attitude towards StormPay [3].

StormPay claims to offer buyer protection. However, the User Agreement includes the clause "At any time you purchase a product or service StormPay is reselling, all liability is on the vendor who contracted StormPay to resell their product or service, and you understand that these purchases are done at your own risk". Because of this, buyers are not refunded if they do not receive the item purchased. [4]

As seen in the above section, StormPay is heavily criticised for its lack of customer support. Questions asked through the online support feature are likely to get a reply that does not actually answer the question. The reply is almost invariably a template, as opposed to a reply written by a human.

StormPay is not a member of the Better Business Bureau, although it has generated more complaints to BBB than any other Middle Tennessee or Southern Kentucky business. [5]

StormPay does not allow transactions to or from a list of "non-approved countries". [6]

StormPay is the primary sponsor of the Clarksville Speedway race track, and has funded several of its renovations. StormPay also sponsors the Crate Racin' USA Series of races, which take place on the Clarksville Speedway. It is speculated that StormPay used its members' funds (as opposed to its profits) for these sponsorships, leading to the problems described above.

References[edit]

Tennessee Department of State

Customers upset because money unavailable at StormPay.com: The Leaf-Chronicle; Clarksville, TN. 02-06-2006

The Leaf-Chronicle; Clarksville, TN. 01-20-2006, 02-08-2006, etc.

Media Release, Better Business Bureau of Middle Tennessee, February 7, 2006

External links[edit]