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Are we feeling the heat?

on .

Last Friday, we had accrued enough donated funds (thank you everyone that helped) in our Paypal account to transfer a little over $1100 to Mathieu in France to help with the construction of the shielding for the gamma detector (which will be used on the Celani cells and powder experiments) and to help support the construction of the mass flow calorimeter which will help settle debate on Celani wires and also be useable for powder testing (more to come on that soon). This is the kind of transfer we have done many times over the history of the project with no issues.

Then we received this from Paypal - 

As part of our security measures, we regularly screen activity in the PayPal system. During a recent screening, we noticed an issue regarding your account.

PayPal's Compliance Department has reviewed your account and identified activity that may be in violation of United States regulations administered by the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

PayPal is committed to complying with and meeting its regulatory obligations. One obligation is to ensure that our customers, merchants, and partners are also in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including those set forth by OFAC, in their use of PayPal.

To ensure that activity and transactions comply with current regulations, PayPal is requesting that you provide the following information via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.:

1. Purpose of the payment 5G43699646665170K including a complete and detailed explanation of the goods or services you intended to purchase.

If we don't hear from you by March 8, 2014, we will limit what you can do with your account until the issue is resolved.

We thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. We apologize for any inconvenience.

PayPal Compliance Department

So we replied

Dear Paypal,
I have been requested to say what this transaction is for.
I am not sure what all the garbage gobbledygook was that you wrote in your nonsense email - however, I shall attempt to answer your question.
We are a international social collective of friends and interested persons donating our personal free time and resources to perform experiments and research we are interested in. We are doing this in the public interest as part of our commitments to the not-for-profit QuantumHeat C.I.C., the website for which is at quantumheat.org. This is a necessarily international effort for which we chose paypal to allow people to contribute to the costs of the work, it is regulated by the UK authorities and will publish its accounts in the UK. In the meantime, we keep a log of costs publicly on our website showing a significant net loss (contributions from our members).
This transaction is to cover costs relating to the research that Mathieu Valat is carrying out, there is no commercial aspect to our groups endeavour and neither can there be by law.
So to summarise, we are a group of friends carrying out research for a non-profit with FULL disclosure of our operations and activities on-line. We are doing this in the public interest.
We look forward to your removing this draconian restriction on our community interest effort.

And then Paypal said this

Thank you for contacting PayPal.

We are still reviewing your account and appreciate your patience during this time. Once the review is complete, you’ll receive an email with an updated account status. Thank you.

Please let me know if you need further assistance.

PayPal, an eBay Company

By this time we were getting a little freaked, we had never had an issue sending funds and the vagueness of their emails was causing concern, the only thing that was different this time was that we had in the previous week announced that we were moving forward with a powder research effort, supported by a prominent scientist, so we decided to look up what the OFAC was. This is the address we found


and here is the text from their front page 

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States.
OFAC acts under Presidential national emergency powers, as well as authority granted by specific legislation, to impose controls on transactions and freeze assets under US jurisdiction.
Many of the sanctions are based on United Nations and other international mandates, are multilateral in scope, and involve close cooperation with allied governments. 

Really, as we are not a country or regime it would appear that an automated bot tracking Paypal transaction thought that the MFMP might be "terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States"

As we are aware we are none of those things it begged the question why had we been identified, everyone knows what happens to those accused of having or trying to have WMD - more importantly were we ever going to see those funds again? Ok, so we might have mentioned the word nuclear once or twice on the site, so we thought we would lay it on a little thick.

Hi Paypal,
I have just read this site
which details the remit and legislation under which your "review" is being undertaken.
I would like to know what exactly our non-profit effort is being accused of EXACTLY.
Edward Snowden is right, we are at risk of an authoritarian world where data is abused for purposes of oppression - paypal has unequivocally demonstrated itself to be part of this system of unwarranted control by this illegitimate act - As you make no indication of what has been contravened it is deeply disturbing that you can summarily take this action. At least a bank will give an indication of what they claim is being done wrong.
I am very concerned about what you think is being done by our group that falls under you "review", I want a detailed report regardless of the outcome of that review. 

to which they replied

Thank you for the explanation, and I have forwarded your concerns to the appropriate department to review the matter.

It is my pleasure to assist you. Thank you for choosing PayPal.

Sharmila Devi
PayPal, an eBay Company

But... it did not explain anything! By this time we actually had a hunch of what might have happenned, So we asked again...

Hi Paypal,
It is great to know that you will be forwarding my "concerns" to a department so that they can review their review.
I am disturbed that you cannot simply pull up an explanation from the transaction record history - which leads me to believe that this is more likely action being controlled by a third party.

To which they replied

Thanks for sharing your concerns with us. We value what you have to say, and we know situations like this can be difficult.

I have forwarded your concerns to the appropriate department to review the matter.

It is my pleasure to assist you. Thank you for choosing PayPal.

Sharmila Devi
PayPal, an eBay Company 

Now you may be wondering, given the exact same wording, if we are talking to a computer asking it to ask a bot to answer a simple question...

Dear Martin Fleischmann Memorial Project,

Our review is complete and we have returned your account to regular standing.

We appreciate your patience and thank you for your help in making PayPal the safest and most trusted online payment solution.

Yours sincerely,

And then the payment went through...

Notice, there was absolutely no explanation of why they blocked the transfer... but the following day we got a request...

As part of PayPal's commitment to excellence, we invite you to share your thoughts about about PayPal's information request process.

We place great value on your time, so this survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete. All feedback in addition to other information collected will be used in accordance with PayPal’s Privacy Policy. Survey answers may be tied back to respondents. In the survey, you will have the opportunity to opt out from being contacted regarding feedback.

Please visit the following website to complete the survey. Simply click on the web address below (or copy and paste the link into your browser):


We appreciate your participation and look forward to hearing from you.

John McCabe
Senior Vice President
Customer Service and Operations  

Like we were going to waste more time!


Was it because we were likely to get too close to the truth about LENR having announced a new powder research drive?

Well, probably not. The fact is, in the transfer note we said words to the effect of "funds to help with the lead shielding for the gamma detector". So no surprises as to why the payment was blocked, but seriously... if we were developing WMD, would we really recording that on money transfers between named individuals?

The scary point is that "During recent screening" (pretty much instant) they [Paypal] 'noticed' "an issue regarding your [our] account"... like there is a human doing this. This was very obviously a program, installed by someone that is likely surveying every transaction made on Paypal - if we had not been able to address the challenge adequately, we would have lost access to those funds.

Thankfully we didn't, so onward and upward.


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+1 #9 Scott Semans 2015-02-13 00:06
A coin dealer sold a 19th Century coin of Iran to someone in France, who copied the invoice into his Paypal remittance Comments section. U.S. sanctions do not apply to this sort of thing, any more than to your Persian rug, but FACA's idiot spyware put my friend in the same situation your experienced. He was required to sign something from FACA in order to get his account restored, but refused. Bottom line: Don't use the Comments window on Paypal remittances.
+1 #8 Robert Greenyer 2014-03-12 14:09

Excellent, we would love to see it.

Please upload documents and send emails by clicking on the green "+" on the right side of the browser.
+1 #7 Robert Greenyer 2014-02-26 11:35

Actually, we were just having a little fun with them as soon as we knew what it was about - probably wrong morally, but they were threatening to block donor funds!


You make a very valid point, a few people with paypal accounts could launch a "denial of service" attack in that way potentially.
+1 #6 Sanjeev 2014-02-26 06:32
You are surely talking to a bot or call center employees, who are not very different from a bot ;)

It seems they have some algorithms to detect suspicious activities based on keywords and contacts/sender s/receivers etc. Apparently your paypal a/c has "unusual" activities because of all these donations and spending on strange stuff.
I enjoyed your responses btw.

The serious problem here is, if one wants to block someones paypal, one only needs to send a payment with some dirty words, like nuclear and NSA in the message and it will be done.
+1 #5 blaze 2014-02-26 04:48
Trust me it's not persona. Paypal is insane with their risk department. They hit everybody. Don't feel special.

Actually you should feel special in that they seem to return your account to regular standing so quickly.
+1 #4 Robert Greenyer 2014-02-25 22:24
@Ian Walker

The funds were under $1100. I think we got a quick turn around as we were immediate and provided good evidence. Also - we have all our ducks in a row.


We have considered crypto currencies but would look to locally cash those funds as soon as possible after receipt to avoid volatility. We should have done it in 2012 when we had scores of people offering us 100s of Bitcoin when they were at around $10 - ho hum.
+1 #3 Ecco 2014-02-25 22:16
@Ian: the bitcoin bubble could burst any day, I would not advise doing that.

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Here is your generous contributions so far towards our $500,000 target, thanks everyone! : $45,020   Please Donate
See the current state of our booked costs here