About a week ago, Financial services provider Skrill shut down Zimbabwean accounts on the platform after having given ample warning that they would. Unfortunately, Skrill didn’t close accounts on 20 April as they had warned they would, some people mistook this to mean that their accounts wouldn’t be shut down and kept using them-now they are in a fix.
Those affected reached out to Skrill and the solution that Skrill is offering will make it very hard for people to recover their money. The money can only be sent to another verified Skrill account and with Skrill no longer offering its services to Zimbos finding someone on the platform is going to be a tough ask. It will be tougher than you think as I will explain shortly. It’s not clear whether the money can be sent to foreign currency trading platforms such as Binary.com but it doesn’t seem like you can.
Before all this fiasco, people with money in their Skrill accounts could spent it in any number of ways including:
- Sending to another Skrill user, and there was never a shortage of these as people were always looking for Skrill so much that it actually sold at a premium compared to the USD.
- Deposit Skrill into an online gambling or lottery site. You would be surprised how many Zimbabweans are into online gambling. Sometimes they actually do win something
- Forex traders on platforms like Deriv could use the currency to deposit
- Shop online and pay Skrill merchants
- Withdraw the money to your bank account. A SWIFT deposit would be made to your account.
Now you have to find a verified Skrill account holder. The initial thinking in the community was that’s easy. We will just open South African accounts. A lot of people proceeded to do so. What could go wrong? It seems everything.
Skrill shutdown South African accounts owned by Zimbabweans
There is now a dearth of Zimbabweans with verified accounts because Skrill is shutting down even South African based accounts that appear to be linked to Zimbabwe somehow. It’s not clear what’s setting off the audit process but it could be any number of things including:
- Skrill already knows the names of Zimbabweans that had Zimbabwean accounts so opening a South African account in the same name raises a red flag.
- The way Zimbabweans use Skrill can be viewed as money laundering in other jurisdictions. If you think the RBZ is tough you have never met the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). They don’t play.
- IP address. A South African account always being used by a Zimbabwean IP address
- Using VPN to access Skrill. Contrary to the nonsense peddled by VPN companies, it’s not very hard to know if someone is using VPN. In fact, most companies nowadays view VPN traffic unfavourably. Even Google places much less value on Adsense ads served to VPN customers. Why? Usually, they are people with something to hide, who use adblockers, are members of the stingy association and generally don’t fall for ads.
- Receiving money from closed Zimbabwean accounts and no one else
- Sending money to an account in your name. A lot of Zimbos heeded my warning but they went on to create South African Skrill accounts in their names and send money from the Zimbabwean account to the South African account before the Zimbabwean account was shut down. Transactions like that ring alarm bells.
Getting trapped funds in Skrill is proving harder than most people anticipated. To get the money you will need a working Skrill account and it seems as soon as you get one it’s being shut down by Skrill. If I believed in conspiracy theories I would say that Skrill doesn’t want to give people their money back and is finding ways to make it hard to give it back. I am better than that.
What Skrill is doing and what companies like PayPal do, shows you why Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are so valuable. Spoilt pot-bellied fellas in rich countries like the United States do not seem to see their value or understand them because they have so many options at their disposal- a decentralised payment system, that is not controlled by the United States, seems bizarre and unneeded.
The rest of us who are routinely at the receiving end of sanctions and unfavourable treatment see the value in a monetary system not controlled by some old dudes in a faraway country who think they know everything.