PayPal Scams: How to Protect Your Money

Don't get duped by urgent-sounding emails or texts, and learn how to sidestep all the tricks up fraudsters' sleeves.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby Published on 11 January 2021. Last updated on 08 March 2021.
PayPal Scams: How to Protect Your Money

PayPal scams are hugely popular with criminals who use emails and texts to separate you from your cash. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you don’t get ripped off.

What are common PayPal scams?

There are numerous PayPal scams out there, but they usually start with either an email or a text message. These are the common fake emails and texts that appear:

  • 'Your account is about to be suspended'. This one is a fake email saying that your PayPal account is about to be suspended unless you click on the link and enter your log-in details. It’s a fake website and simply allows the criminals to find out your password so they can then log in to your account.
  • 'You’ve been paid'. Criminals use this fake message when they want something you’re selling online for free. You get a spoofed email telling you the money has arrived in your PayPal account, in the hope you’ll then post the item to them before you realise you haven’t actually been paid.
  • 'You’ve been paid too much'. This one takes the ‘you’ve been paid' scam up a notch. The email says you’ve been paid more than the sale price of an item; for example, you’re selling a TV for £150 and you’ve been paid £250. The email then asks you to post the item and the overpaid amount. In reality, you haven’t been paid anything at all. This way the scammer gets your item plus some cash, too.

How to spot a PayPal scam

There are a number of telltale signs of a scam email or text.

Start by looking at the sender address. This should be from a paypal.com email account. Criminals can fake the name that appears in the from address field, but hover over it to see what the full email address is.

Next, look at who the email is addressed to. PayPal will always address emails to your first and last name or business name. Anything else is suspicious.

Check the spelling and grammar. Poor grammar and spelling mistakes are common signs of a spam email or text message.

PayPal states that it will never send you an email with an attachment or ask you to download something or install software.

Is there a time limit? Scammers will often try to rush you into a decision in the hope you will make a mistake. If you get an email saying you need to change your PayPal password or your account will be suspended don’t click on links in the email. Open a new browser window and type in the PayPal.com address before logging in and checking your account.

Finally, take a closer look at the links in an email – without clicking on them. Hover your mouse over the link and it should show you the full web address. This should show you if it is a genuine paypal.com website.

How to avoid PayPal scams

There may be a lot of PayPal scams out there, but you only need to follow a few rules to defeat the grifters.

  1. Never click on a link in a text or email. Always open a new browser window and type in the official PayPal web address. This will help you avoid phishing scams.
  2. Always check your PayPal account. If you receive a message saying you’ve been paid, or paid too much, open a new browser window and type in the PayPal address. Log in to your account and check how much money you have actually received.
  3. Check emails are genuine. Real PayPal emails will always come from an address ending with paypal.com. Check the full email address to make sure it is real. Also look at the spelling and grammar in the email.
  4. Let your spam folder protect you. Make sure you have spam filters set up on your email account. These will automatically keep emails from unknown sources out of your inbox.

» MORE: Don't Be a Prime Target for Amazon Scams

How to report a scam email to PayPal

You can forward fake emails to [email protected]. This will alert PayPal to the problem and allow them to investigate.

It may also be possible to report it to your own email provider. Mark the email as spam so it is moved into your junk folder. Once the email is in your junk or spam folder, some email providers give you the option to mark it as a phishing scam.

What to do it you are scammed

As soon as you realise you’ve been scammed, log into your PayPal account and change your password and security questions.

Report the scam to PayPal by forwarding the email to [email protected].

You should also report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via their website.

Source: Getty Images

About the author:

Ruth is a freelance journalist with 15 years of experience writing for national newspapers, magazines and websites. Specialising in savings, investments, pensions and property. Read more

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