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05/05/2010. Interview with the admin of SolidTrustPay payment processor

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Hi everybody! You know over the years on MNO I have had the dubious “pleasure” of interviewing countless HYIP admins. Now, I’m the first to admin that some of them were, quite frankly, rubbish. Some were quite good I thought but that’s down to the admin’s efforts and not mine. On the other hand though it has occasionally been a genuine pleasure to interview some other folks connected to online investments in other capacities. Script writers and software developers, forum owners, e-currency exchange providers, and so on. Today however I’m going to stick my neck out and say that this may well be the best interview I have ever received and it’s my privilege to introduce you to Stella Hiemstra, the co-founder and CEO of SolidTrustPay payment processor.

I say it’s interesting and there are many factors contributing to that. First and foremost is you guys! You may remember that I asked you to send me any questions you had for her so a sincere thank you to each and every one of you who contributed. Stand up and take a bow because you came up with some good ones. Apologies if you don’t see your exact question there but some were repeated and others had to be edited as I know you are not all native English speakers, but I think I covered everything you asked.

As well as that Stella herself really outdid herself by giving such frank, open, and comprehensive answers. SolidTrustPay has established itself as one of the maket leaders and it’s plain to see that a strong personality behind the scenes has had something to do with that. If you’ve ever heard the expression “behind every great man stands a great woman”, well then maybe the same is true of this great payment processor. Also you should know that I don’t usually allow personal information on MNO but this time I just had to make an exception. If there’s one business out there where people can so often get isolated and cut off from reality then it’s definitely this one! So I think it important that we remember that at the other end of your keyboard are real people with real families from real communities leading real lives. Just like you. As Stella herself points out, business with some form of ethics attached isn’t just all “money money money”, it’s about people too and making sure they are treated fairly.

But getting back to the business at hand there’s no denying that Stella and her team at SolidTrustPay have through hard work and diligence firmly established themselves as a major force to be reckoned with in this industry. For the last four years and counting all I can say is that the online investments industry is a better and a richer (both ethically and financially speaking) place for the existence of STP. We have all been better of with them than without them. So let’s hear from Stella.

1. Hi Stella. Could you please introduce yourself to the readers of MNO and tell us about what your personal involvement with SolidTrustPay is? Maybe you could also introduce us to some of the senior staff members that are working for you. Who are they and what do they do?

I’m very happy to introduce myself to your readers. My name is Stella and I am the CEO of SolidTrust Pay. Some of our key personnel at STPay are: Melanie/Payments Manager; Adam/Verifications Manager; Christine/Merchant Support Manager and Denise/Investigations Officer.

2. Can you also give us some background information on STP? Just the basics, like how long are you in operation? Where are you based and how many people are working for you? Why did you start the company and did you ever expect to be so popular? Just how popular are you by the way? (How many active accounts do you have?)

SolidTrust Pay began in April, 2006 so we have just passed our 4th year offering processing services online. We are incorporated in Canada, but own other corporations globally that handle various aspects of processing. STPay has 20 full time, very dedicated staff and over 150,000 active members and merchants using our services daily. We continue to grow at a steady pace daily – our members are very loyal and many of them have long referral lists! STPay started right after StormPay crashed and quickly became another popular option for online buyers and sellers.

3. Over the last couple of years what have been the high points and the low points of working with SolidTrustPay?

The high point is always when a new merchant is successful and we see them grow and flourish. We have some merchants who have been with us since the very beginning and are still doing well. Other high points is when we receive a ticket or call from a member who tells us how happy they are with the services we have done for them. One of our members always sends us a large tray of homemade cookies ordered from our local bakery and delivered to us at Christmas. That’s very special and considerate. Our definite low points have been the hack attempts we have endured in the past. We have come through them all, always been open about them and they have made our system even stronger. Such events will happen. What is important is how a company grows out of them. No one knew that terrorists would smash into the twin towers or that VISA and HSBC would be hacked in previous years. It is an unfortunate fact of life online. Our system is completely encrypted, so if someone were to hack in, they would not be able to see anything.

4. Do you have any kind of official sanction or license from the government or financial authorities either on a national level or in your own province in Canada?

In Canada, financial services such as what we provide, are regulated by FinTRAC(the same as FinCEN in the United States).

5. Are you feeling pressure from regulatory agencies inside and outside of Canada? I’m asking that question based on what the securities commission in British Columbia (and elsewhere in Canada) did with Genius Funds. There is some concern among investors that the rich financial institutions across the globe are pressuring regulatory agencies to get rid of the unconventional HYIPs.

No, we are not feeling any pressure at all from regulatory agencies. We were contacted by the BC Securities Commission and provided them with the information they requested (and only after receiving a legal letter from them requesting it…not just because they called in) but we have not heard anything since.

6. In light of the recent investigation into Genius Funds, how are you affected by all of this? If the government believes them to be either an outright scam or at best of questionable legal status, where do you fit into this as one of the parties handling their money? Has anyone suggested you to be an accessory by virtue of the fact that you accommodated them?

No, not at all. Geniusfunds also used banks and other processing systems besides us.

7. Would STP consider some form of chargeback system in the event of a scam? If more payment processors did this maybe scammers would think twice about their activities. Is it possible to freeze an account and issue refunds?

SolidTrust Pay has always had a refund policy, as well as a complaint and grievance policy. This is outlined in our User Agreement and well as in our FAQs. We have refunded many MANY programs where the admin has disappeared, or we have begun an investigation on their account due to questionable activity, etc. We do not interfere where the admin and program are operating normally – we will only freeze an account if it can be proven unequivocally that abuse or suspected fraud is being committed. A program that simply slows down and ends is not a scam. A program where the admin has never taken any funds out for themselves, but it just dies out is not a scam. A program where the admin tries to “run” with large amounts of funds after claiming that it was hacked, or DDoS’d or announcing a “restructuring” closing is probably a scam and they won’t get away with that with SolidTrust!

8. I am a SolidTrustPay member and appreciate their services. I have noticed that STP is not a favorite of a lot of HYIP’s. Any idea why and what could be done to improve STP’s status?

I’d like to answer this question very directly. We receive a lot of fake ID’s from HYIP admins and therefore, of course, they never make it past our verification process. Sometimes they slip by and we catch them later and have to shut down their account. We also have a refund policy and strict out-exchange policy so it is very hard for a less than ethical HYIP admin to operate successfully within our system. We have no problem accepting good HYIP programs that operate legitimately. If any of your readers are involved with good programs that do not accept STPay, they should write to the admin and ask them to consider us. We have the lowest transfer fees and the best service!

9. A Canadian reader asks why your fees to change money from US dollars to Canadian dollars is so expensive? He also asks exactly what policy you have in place in the event of a merchant disappearing with someone else’s money with out any notice – should we inform them immediately when we are aware they are going to collapse to ensure perhaps we could get back some money?

Our Canadian exchange rates are exactly the same as the Royal Bank of Canada. There is a 2.5% currency exchange fee, which is the same rate that PayPal charges. When we exchange USD into CAD, (or the other way around) our bank charges us a fee as well. Regarding a merchant disappearing with someone else’s money, that is going to be very hard to do with us. They could only do that by sending to a member who was not a participant in their program (which we would notice as every transaction daily is monitored) or exchange it out. Every exchange has to be manually verified by our Investigations Department and if we are not satisfied with the reason for the exchange, the exchanger is asked to refund the transfer. Members do need to keep in mind that there are no guarantees with HYIP programs and that they (the member) did agree to whatever terms the HYIP offers. If the program simply slows down and dies…..we do not step in and do refunds.

10. Why does your verification department verify accounts after documents have been submitted only to later ban that same account after they see it’s being used by a HYIP?

The account would ONLY be banned for :
1) fraudulent or attempted fraudulent or abusive behavior
2) fake or stolen documents
3) fake contact information (name, address, phone number)
4) refusal to respond to emails with relevant questions
We do NOT simply ban an account because it is a HYIP.

11. Since your main source of clients (revenue) are HYIP related members that deposit into HYIPs, is it damaging to STP’s reputation by continuously banning HYIP accounts?

Actually, this is a completely false statement. Only 15% of our business comes from HYIP programs. Our main merchant base is the MLM and Network Marketing business model. We also have a number of traditional online retail businesses. We do not “continuously ban HYIP accounts”. We have, a few times, been too tough with a HYIP admin, but later have worked things out and they have added STPay as an option again. We prefer to have the reputation of being conservative rather than liberal.

12. I recently submitted a support ticket regarding an investment (Dragadox.com) that stopped paying after only 2 weeks asking if anything could be done to recoup funds. A reply was given within a few days, saying basically that the problem was taken care of and the ticket was now closed, but I had never received any kind of explanation as to the action taken by STP. And it remains a mystery to me as to what action was taken. What is their policy regarding HYIPs that stop paying and do they make any effort to recover members funds, or is it strictly left to the members to resolve such problems themselves?

I am not familiar with Dragadox (we have no username that matches that in our database, so I could not look up that account to make any comments. Without a ticket #, I cannot look up your request either, so will have to provide a general statement. Our policy when a member calls or writes in asking about a program, is to direct the member to the merchant for reconciliation and to refer the member to the merchant’s website terms to see if they offer any type of refund or guarantee. We will monitor the account behaviour for any suspicious activity and certainly stop any type of “take the money and run” attempts. In the past, we have been both praised and criticized for stepping in. I have personally been told by members who believe we should never intervene with: “Who do you think you are, my mother? We are all grown ups here so stay out of it.” We believe our present complaint and grievance policies are effective and protect merchants and members equally.

13. What is the average “normal” load time for funding the STP (Globe Wallet?) Debit Card? I notice that you are offering an “Express load” for a price premium. Does this mean that we will have to select the “Express” option in order to get “normal” service? i.e. will “normal” loads take 5 days and “express” take priority – i.e. 24 hours?

You are right in that there is a new PRIORITY withdrawal option for the STPay VISA debit card. You can receive your load in under 24 hours as a PRIORITY load for a 2% surcharge (NO SURCHARGE if you are a TrustCard member) or in 2 – 3 biz days as a normal withdrawal request.

14. Why do you charge $30 for your “Trust Card” when my account is already “verified”?

The TrustCard, which was introduced over a year ago, is an option for members. No one ever has to buy one. It is a security product and not attached to your account verification. I encourage readers to visit our FAQs for full details on this great product which we developed exclusively for our members.

15. I previously tried to purchase the STP Debit card (2008), but there was some problems with your card supplier – and you refunded my money after 5 weeks of trying! Can I expect that a new DC request will meet with more success? I live in Thailand and I note that none of your new card funding options are available for Thailand. Given that situation, is there any point in my having an STP debit card?

I’m terribly sorry you had such troubles receiving your card. Although expensive, it is strongly recommended that you opt for FedEx shipping, and not plain old mail when ordering a Debit Card for countries such as Thailand. Mail thieves, thinking that it might be a pre-paid debit card with $$ already loaded on to it, steal envelopes containing the cards that are shipped via regular mail. As to funding your card – you would fund it from money in your STPay account, no problem.

16. Is it true you were once a music teacher? Do you still have any interest in that? Or is STP your only activity or do you have any other interests?

I am still a music teacher. In my “offline world” I am a professional pianist and also play the Celtic harp. I direct a community choir for girls here in our area – they are beautiful singing angels! If you join our facebook page, you will find a composition of mine that won an International Music Competition in New Zealand (The staff person who manages our public relations dept. asked my permission to post it there). My children are also incredible musicians – much better than me. Everyone has a story – and everyone has as life. I am proud to say that I know many of our STPay members personally – their children, grandchildren, troubles and triumphs. Business is not about profit…it is about people. Take care of the people, and the rest will come.

17. STP is known to carry out a good deal of diligence before accepting merchants. What are the primary credentials that are checked? If there is a ripoff, is there a way that STP can help by identifying the scammers before it happens?

We do indeed carry out significant due diligence on merchants. Their accounts must have verifiable and accurate information (name, address, phone number, email). Their documents must pass our standards – often we will ask for notarized documents to be mailed in. We review websites for contact us, privacy, terms of use and agreements. Programs who begin with the sole intention to scam do not even bother with us, I’m sure.

18. Like AlertPay, STP should also have a more liberal policy on refunds. That would really make STP the best processor in real terms.

I refer you to question #7 above where we outline our refund policies, which we have always had.

19. Who do you see as your main competitors? AlertPay or StrictPay? What do you think of other online processors in general? How trustworthy would you find them and what makes STP so much better?

Competition is always good, as it makes companies strive harder and be better. We are most like PayPal rather than any other processor. The next closest processor offering similar services would be AlertPay. StrictPay does not offer many of the options that SolidTrust Pay does and do not move in most of the business industries that we service. What sets SolidTrust Pay apart from other processors is our level of merchant and customer support (we offer toll free support, LiveChat and support ticket options), a wide range of funding and withdrawal options (with more coming on board very soon), the best debit card in the industry (which includes almost instant funding if the member wishes and high monthly load limits) and a wide acceptance of business models which PayPal and others do not accept.

20. Another question relating to your debit cards is that they don’t appear to work in certain countries. Why is that, what should I do, and if it doesn’t relate to STP then who should I contact?

Our contract with the Globe Wallet debit card company is that the cards are available to, and work in, all countries except globally blacklisted trading countries. There are some cases where the cards will only work for citizens of that country, and not visitors to those countries (such as Singapore). For more information, please visit: http://www.first-pay.com and ask their support system about your country.

21. The recent emergence and relative (and growing) popularity of GlobalDigitalPay would seem to indicate that this is still very much a thriving and lucrative business as well as highly competitive. Has this affected your own business in any noticeable way? How are you planning to keep STP competitive in the future? Will there be significant changes made in the company?

I feel very badly for the hack that GDP has endured this past week. I am sure they will come out of it stronger and better. As mentioned earlier, competition is always good. GDP does not offer the same funding/withdrawal options that we do and does not service the same industries and business models, so they are not a competitor with us in many areas. Regarding changes, SolidTrust continues to evolve, change, develop new, easier and better ways of doing the same things, etc. Those readers who have been with solidtrustpay.com since the beginning have seen many changes! We’ve got all sorts of new developments “on the list” that members will see integrated in 2010.

A little extra information was added on by Stella next, and to be quite honest I was unaware of some of these facts myself, so if you are a regular STP client like I am you may be interested in the following:

Here is a top 10 “did you know” trivia list about features SolidTrust Pay has that your readers many not be aware of:
1. Merchants can qualify to accept credit cards directly from their customers even if those customers are NOT SolidTrust Pay members.
2. Credit Card authorized merchants can upgrade their accounts to our “invisible API” where customers do not leave the merchant’s payment page (no redirection to SolidTrust). This provides a more professional feel to the payment experience for
Oscommerce shopping cart merchants, MLM merchants, etc.
3. Our member to member transfer fees to Personal Accounts are the lowest of allmajor processors at only 1.5% plus $.25 per transaction.
4. STPay has a credit card “autofund” feature for members. They can add their
favourite credit card, and if in the middle of a transaction they find they don’t have enough money to complete the payment, the remaining amount will automatically be charged to that card. Members just select the “autofund” link in their My Banks & Cards/Add New Credit Card area.
5. International members in many countries can fund their STPay VISA card right from their bank account, and then move those funds from their card to their STPay account. Info is found in the My Money/Deposit Money area.
6. STPay can receive bank wires from over 160 countries around the world. In addition, members in over 48 INTL countries can send cheques or money orders to a lockbox in their own country and in their own currency.
7. The STPay VISA debit card has the highest monthly load amount in the industry ($8,000 real cash and $8,000 virtual holding area, for a total of $16,0000).
8. The STPay VISA debit card has the highest daily load limit in the industry – $2500 per load, with TrustCard holders being able to load $3500 daily for only $5.
9. SolidTrust has the highest credit card funding limit of $5,000 USD. Other processors have a $200 or $1000 funding limit, which is very limiting.
10. Our affiliate program has paid out over $10,000 to members who have given their affiliate URL link out to businesses and friends, who have then created accounts and begun using them. Our affiliate program has NO LIMITS and cash payments are paid in real time, with a full reporting area to view affiliates and earnings. Visit the Earn, Play & Win area for more info.

Thank you for this great opportunity to answer questions from your readers. We welcome all comments, suggestions, criticism and opinions – after all, the only way to improve is to know what people want and then make it happen! Visit us anytime at http://solidtrustpay.com and click on the Contact Us link.

Thanks a lot to Stella for that but also thanks ever so much to you guys for contributing! And let me just suggest that you that you follow up on her final suggestion there and not be passive. Read anything here you don’t like? Disagree with? Don’t understand? Then raise your voices, guys! Take her up on her offer and submit more questions, more suggestions, and more opinions. For an online based industry the lack of real communication between people is the one thing that never fails to annoy me in this business, so you need to start taking more control of that. This entire industry revolves around YOUR money, so you need to be the ones asking the questions here and not me.

In future, and I’ll be honest here my experience with MNO has been a learning curve for me, I will be hoping to involve the readers a bit more proactively and hope to involve you on more of a personal basis on the input here too.

Meanwhile thanks again to Stella for being such a gracious interviewee (MNO was in bad need of a feminine touch!) and best of luck to SolidTrustPay and their members. And if you’re not a member, then you could do worse than take a look.

That’s about it for the moment guys. I’m now heading off to Tel Aviv airport where I’m going back to Russia to see some old friends and family for a couple of weeks so goodbye sunshine, hello snow! I’m hopeful however that I will have another news update for you later tonight (Icelandic volcanoes permitting!) so make sure sure and check back with MNO then.

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