Was I wrong about Wirex?

This is a tough blog for me to write.

I may have to publicly admit I was wrong about something I was very passionate about. I don’t like being wrong, I like admitting it even less (as my other half will testify to!), but the facts are indisputable. Let me explain.

People who follow my blog know that I have often talked about Wirex since my first blog on the subject . It’s that cool looking debit card that allows you to spend your crypto at any location that accepts traditional debit cards. Any conversation about crypto that I have been engaged in I have inevitably produced my Wirex card. Any talk I’ve given has warranted a mention and even my second book “How to explain Bitcoin to your mum“, a book that reached Amazon’s Finance Book charts, has a whole section on the card and it’s uses. I have to say I felt quite honoured when Pavel Matveev, the CEO of Wirex, tweeted me a photo of my book on his desk, apparently having enjoyed reading about his company therein.

wirex

In fact, I’ve promoted this card so often over the last year I have received several inquiries as to whether I was on the payroll! The answer is an emphatic ‘no’. I was just very passionate about a product I believed was filling the gap between crypto accumulation and real world use. And, in my defence, it did this pretty well.

But then it all started to go wrong. It all seemed to start with an obligatory password reset.

Getting the email about this was unexpected, but I did complete the instructions as requested. Shortly afterwards, however, I received an email from Wirex telling me that my account had been blocked and to contact support. Intrigued, I logged in to my account and noticed that this time I had to verify the device I was using which was odd as it was the same one I always used. It was indeed blocked, but it also now seemed to have an extra £600 in it from a transaction I didn’t recognize. Who the hell is Mr Mendes? or Mr Napper? And why had one transferred money to me referencing the other?

In some ways I was reassured. It must have been a dodgy transaction and the system had picked it up. This actually isn’t the first time this had happened to me, with both my PayPal account and my personal bank account being the recipients of unexplained deposits on two separate occasions, albeit several years apart. In both cases, as here, I simply reported it, made sure I didn’t spend any of it, and the money was reversed out and presumably tracked back to where it came from. My Paypal account had also been frozen temporarily while it was processed, but in the end no harm was done.

I contacted support as requested on the same day I got the email announcing the block on February 20th and got an acknowledgment. 48 hours later I’d had no response, so chased again on the 22nd. Obviously, a help support agent picked it up and unblocked the account. I logged in, the transaction was still there. I was confused, but no sooner had I logged in than I got another email from Wirex; the account was blocked again.

This was immediately followed by another email confirming that the balance had changed. It had been changed back to what it had been previously including this mysterious £600 balance. So …. this was legitimate? But I didn’t know who these guys were? This seem more and more odd. It was irrelevant anyway as the account was still blocked.

So I raised another ticket and received another acknowledgement. The next day I was relieved to receive the following. It looked like Wirex were on it!

anthony 1st email

After this, however, it ‘went dark’ at Wirex. I chased again on the 26th, and yet again on the 1st March  but with no response. But then I had an idea – I’d had some direct conversations with the Twitter guys over my book and various other promotional things I’d done for Wirex, so I raised a Direct Message and received a prompt reply; They’d look into it for me. Sure enough, a few hours later, I received a new message from Anthony apologizing for the delay due to a ‘high load’ (as before) and explaining that they were still waiting for a reply from their ‘bank partner’. There was no explanation as to what this meant or what we were waiting for exactly, but I thanked him anyway and asked him to let me know anything as soon as he did.

It went quiet again for another few days. I was still promoting the card, but secretly hoping no-one would ask me to do any transactions with it as it remained blocked. The next communication from Wirex was as devastating as it was bewildering:

anthony 3

What the hell? Excuse me? What violation? And how does it help sending a link to a huge list of terms of conditions without any clue as to what it could be? At best, this was rude and at worst, well, it makes you sound like a criminal doesn’t it? My journalist side was also peaked though – just WHAT was going on here? It was time to do some research and ask around, perhaps there was more to this than I was aware of. I wrote back to Anthony and politely, but very firmly, asked for clarification on this and then settled down to see what I could dig up. I also raised it with the ‘Escalation Team’ but this has thus far been a dead end as over a week later I still haven’t received an acknowledgement, let alone a reply. I’m assuming this is not a real team.

My research shocked me. On Bitrust, Wirex had a score of just 1.92 out of 5. Other sites weren’t much better and even the best I could find was ‘Average’ on Trustpilot. I read all 786 reviews. The words “scam”, “thieves”, “terrible service” and “they stole my money” were rife. I was certainly not the only one facing a total shutdown of service and communication.

Further analysis revealed what I suspect to be the truth. The reviews have an unusual split, with a high number of great reviews being offset by an disproportionate number of extremely negative ones – 24% to be precise. That’s a pattern you don’t see too often. The reason is clear: It seems Wirex does work exactly as it supposed to – even I can testify to that. However, when things go wrong, well, you’ve had it, mate. You’ll be treated with contempt, ignored and have your account taken away with no explanation. Oh, and your money on the card? No, you’re not getting that back either. There’s talk of legal action, threats and even police involvement, not once but many, many times. That’s OUTRAGEOUS. Just who have I been promoting all this time? Well, I’m certainly not comfortable promoting it any more.

Meanwhile I was still chasing clarity on what was going on. I still needed to know on what grounds I was being ‘thrown out’ of the Wirex community. Could I even open another account? What do I do now? I chased via another email and contacted the people I had conversed with before via Twitter, but noticed they too were no longer responding. It seems once you are barred, you really are completely ignored as other people had found. It didn’t seem to matter if it was not even your fault.

A few days later, I got another response from Anthony. He hadn’t addressed any of the questions, but he had found time to write back:

anthony 4

It’s not well written, but I get the gist … and just what ARE these activities he’s referred to?

I’ve responded again asking more questions and escalated again, but it seems that the people who were writing the negative reviews really weren’t making it up. Something is very, very wrong at Wirex and they’re either operating a dodgy system or, as I’d prefer to think for my own sanity, have grown so fast they’ve made a mess of the backend and are simply ignoring it. That strategy is very dangerous. As ex-brand manager of Microsoft, I can tell you we had to spend millions of pounds and install company wide processes to try and offset the ‘arrogant, non-caring’ image we had cultivated for ourselves whilst going through enormous growth in the mid to late nineties. Trust me on this, it’s much easier to fix it now than later. I can even give you a few pointers!

The fact is that you really measure a company based on how they deal with it when things go wrong. They always go wrong at some stage so you get to see how they think about you, how much they want your business and what the company’s values are. In this case, I now know my place. I’m the lowest of the low and not even worth responding to. I think I’m so offended by this because of the way I have promoted this company so tirelessly and so consistently for so long without expecting any compensation, payment in kind or any other form of recognition save that of knowing I’m doing my part to spread adoption of crypto. But I can’t allow a company like this to damage that possibility, so it seems, unless some last-minute reprieve via a proper (and sincere) investigation and correction is offered, that we must part ways and I need to find a new debit card partner to promote as heavily as I promoted Wirex going forward.

There are, of course, many options out there, so any suggestions for the one I should be looking at, readers? Oh and please don’t be offended if I research it thoroughly first this time!

Final article pending comments from Wirex’s press office or CEO Pavel Matveev before it goes fully public on March 18th.

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