It took 100 days for Skrill & WorldPay to send my money back. All’s well that ends well.
What’s the story?
Back in June, the Greek government decided to hold a referendum. Following the announcement, capital controls were imposed to the Greek banking system for the first time. People were unable to withdraw cash and transfer funds abroad electronically.
Greeks in panic now rushed to find ways to access their money, fearing of a possible return to Drachma (the pre-Eurozone Greek currency) and a certain devaluation. Of course, it was too late. Not only we could not wire transfer money to foreign bank accounts, but we were denied using our credit cards and Paypal on the internet.
In effect, we couldn’t buy anything online.
We are talking dark ages. Startups, Greek entrepreneurs, and businesses suffered the most impact out of this situation and are still struggling to find a way out, as capital controls are still in effect. Some are turning to alternative payment methods, such as utilizing Bitcoins for international payments.
I wasn’t planning on doing anything at first. Besides, I’m not the last-minute guy. I always plan ahead. And while I wasn’t shocked by this development, the pressure was building up while trying to raise a family. Fortunately my web business was in safe (US) hands.
Initiating the money transfer
I’d found two ways to safeguard my family’s finances:
- At first, a Greek gambling operator let the word out that they were accepting deposits from Greek banks. Could it be safer to trust your funds to a gambling company instead of a bank? At that time, it sure looked like that. However, upon contacting them I found out they were only accepting 250 euros per day. While that amount was quite larger than the 60 euros the capital controls allowed, it would take me weeks to transfer the funds I had in mind (don’t ask). It also sounded pretty strange that they insisted our funds were safe from a return to Drachma, as they would stay denominated in Euros! To this day, I am not sure how they guaranteed that.
- Then Skrill (former Moneybookers, an electronic wallet online similar to Paypal) came out with a couple of emails, warning of the implications that capital controls might have to their customers’ funds. However, they didn’t mention lots of details regarding a bank wire transfer as a payment method to deposit funds. In order for a deposit to get through, I was instructed to initiate a wire transfer to a foreign bank’s branch situated in Athens. Since I was given a Greek IBAN, I thought it could go through, given capital controls allowed domestic transfer via web banking.
I pulled the plug and ordered the transfer. The funds left my account and I got the transfer’s receipt instantly. Everything looked normal. Now came the waiting part.
Where is my money?
A week afterward and while the country went into turmoil, the money had gone missing. My Skrill account was still empty.
I am pretty patient and having completed lots of money transfers as an internet entrepreneur before, I let three weeks before I first contacted Skrill. Eventually, I was introduced to WorldPay, which has been the Skrill’s payment processor until recently.
To cut the story short, many of my emails didn’t get a reply, especially in regards to WorldPay. Most got the cold response that they would be monitoring the situation in Greece and only a few let me know that I was in the mercy of the capital controls. Should the controls be lifted, I’d once again have access to my funds.
Only capital controls could take months or even years to be lifted!
Two months after the moment I clicked on that cursed “SEND” button, I contacted my bank in Greece. They were surprisingly very friendly and cooperative. At first, they offered to revert the wire transfer. They came back letting me know that they couldn’t. No matter how much I insisted, they acknowledged my concerns but in the end there was nothing they could do on their part. They recommended contacting the account’s holder of the recipient bank to reverse the transfer.
Yes, it was late September when I decided to take the matter public. That must have been the third or fourth email I’d sent that month. A bit earlier I was also getting fed up with Skrill’s marketing campaigns while I was sitting here waiting for a response to my issue.
After those tweets, I got a much friendlier and prompter response. I don’t know whether it was making it public or including a warning of taking legal action in my last email that did the trick. For the first time, I received a call from Skrill right after WorldPay asked for my bank details to send the money back! I am talking of a revelation; light in the tunnel. Positive vibes coming from every direction.
A week later (that is today) the funds are back, minus the (small) bank fees. In all honesty, I wasn’t worried of losing that money. It’s just that bills hadn’t stopped coming in and the family’s reserves were quickly drying up.
I am sure the missus will sleep better at night.
Happy wife, happy life.
I need to personally thank Silvia from Skrill’s customer service who called me on the phone, speaking in Greek and Liam from WorldPay, who responded to my emails and was the first to offer a viable solution.
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