You receive an email from PayPal that you’ve been paid. Without thinking twice, you ship merchandise to your new customer, thankful for their business. The only problem is, they never paid you at all! Instead, you’ve now been a victim to one of the many PayPal scams striking users daily.
Unfortunately, PayPal scams are frequent enough that the site devotes entire pages to help their users avoid them. We will give you the quick and easy cheat sheet to PayPal scams, that the scammers don’t want you to know about!
How do PayPal Scams Work?
PayPal scams often operate through fake emails and payment schemes. Although we will explore the types of email that are most common below, a safe bet is to check the “reply to” email address for any PayPal emails you receive.
Downloading the PayPal app from Google Play or the Apple iTunes Store will make it easier to turn on account alerts and check the app quickly. As with most online scams, scammers are after one of 2 things (or both at once): your data and money!
How to Recognize PayPal Scams
Problem with Your Account
You receive an email, phone call, or text saying that there is a problem with your account and you must go to a specific link and verify your password and information. The link you are sent to is a fake spoofed website that steals your personal/account information. The scammer can then commit identity fraud or access your bank accounts.
This occurs when a scammer says they will send you a large payment or gift, so long as you send them a small fee for registration, legal documents, or to verify your identity. This is a scam, and the scammer never intended on doing anything more than stealing your money!
Name Spoofing and Fake Links
Even though the email you receive looks legitimate, it is from a fake sender who wants your cash, access to your PayPal account, your private information, or all of the above. The websites you are sent to are called “phishing” sites, as they seek to steal your information.
If the email contains a download or directs you to a website with a download, you may have a virus/malware now loaded onto your computer.
Fake charities may ask for you to pay through PayPal when the money only goes to scammers, not real charities. PayPal recommends checking a charity site is legitimate through CharityWatch.org, CharityNavigator.org, and other organizations.
Fake Job Scams
Scammers will post fake jobs on their website, and encourage you to apply for them. However, once you do they will steal your money through your PayPal.
According to PayPal:
Fraudsters may try to convince you that you've been paid more than you were owed.
- Someone steals from another PayPal account and overpays you; then they get you to transfer the money for the over-payment through another payment system or by cash, etc.
- You received a spoofed email that says you owe $600 for a computer device you listed at $300! The sender asks you to ship the computer device in addition to the extra $300 you were “paid.” by mistake.
Really, in both examples, they have used a stolen PayPal account to pay you and know the charges will be reversed in your account soon, leaving you out the device and money.
How to Avoid PayPal Scams
Verify the correct amount was paid. Not only will this help avoid overpayment scams, but also verify you were paid and did not just receive a fake email.
Check the “reply to” email address and hyperlink address to avoid fake or spoofed names or websites. A “real” PayPal email will be from the URL of email@Paypal.com. You will have to move your mouse over any links in the email to verify their actual domain address and check the full email address; not just the name is shown.
Go to Social Catfish and search for the suspected scammer’s name, photographs, email addresses, phone numbers, and more. If you find a match and it belongs to someone else, you are dealing with a stolen account or scammer using a fake identity.
It is possible to (virtually) guarantee that you will not be scammed, as long as you think through your actions online. Always stop and think twice about any strange emails or alerts that you receive.
Verify information with Social Catfish, do not provide anyone with money through other means, nor accept weird forms of payment. Your personal information is off-limits and should not be given to anyone online, as it makes you at risk of identity theft.
It can take a while to correct the damaging effects of a scam. The best way to ensure your data and PayPal account is safe before a fraud takes place. Search the name, email address, photographs or images, username, or phone number of anyone you suspect might be a scammer (or even if you don’t!) through Social Catfish!
It can take hours and weeks to repair identity theft or PayPal scams, but only seconds for Social Catfish to scour the web for information and provide you with detailed results.