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How do I Recognize PayPal™ Scams?

Alex Tree
Alex Tree

PayPal™ scams are an everyday occurrence, but you can virtually eliminate the chance of becoming a victim by familiarizing yourself with the most widespread scams. These scams frequently start with an email that asks you to log in or download an attachment or asks for personal information, or the email may purport to sell an item for more money than it is worth. The real PayPal™ company states that it will never ask for personal information via email or ask its customers to download a file. In addition, be very suspicious of anyone who offers to buy a product posted on Ebay&reg, Craigslist&reg, or other website for more than the asking price. It is most definitely a scam, and the tip-off should be that he or she does not want to deal locally or go through the usual payment exchange through the website on which the item is posted.

Scammers asking for personal information in order to log into and take over an account is not a new thing. In fact, outright asking for login information while claiming to work for PayPal™ works often enough that some scammers do not bother making the email look official. Usually, however, these emails look official but start with “Dear PayPal™ Customer” or a variant instead of using your full name or company name. PayPal™ recommends forwarding the email to and then deleting it. If there is a link present, do not click on it, as it will most likely lead to a fake PayPal™ website that gathers login information.

Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

Similar PayPal™ scams started by email also usually ask for login information or gather it via a fake website. In one PayPal™ scam, the scammer asks the PayPal™ customer to download an attachment for security or similar reasons. This file is usually designed to gather PayPal™ login information, but depending on the software installed, it might be able to gather all login information entered into that computer. Again, the best way to stop a PayPal™ scammer is to forward the email to PayPal™, but you can also raise awareness of PayPal™ scams among friends and family.

Other PayPal™ scams might be less obvious to most people. One scam often involves large amounts of money and starts with a PayPal™ customer attempting to sell an item on Craigslist&reg, Ebay&reg, or other popular Internet shops. The scammer then sends a message offering to give the seller more money than he or she was asking, but refuses to pay in cash or go through the Internet shop’s normal payment process. If the seller agrees, the scammer receives the item and then gets the charge overturned. This PayPal™ scam generally does not work if the seller sends the item to the address on the scammer’s Paypal account after waiting until the payment clears and documents that the package was sent.

Discussion Comments


I did fall for one PayPal scam a few years ago. The email looked legitimate to me, and it seems like they did include my real name in the subject line. I had just purchased something with my PayPal card, and the email suggested there was a problem with my account after the sale. My account would be put on hold indefinitely until I provided all sorts of personal information. Since one of my regular clients paid me through PayPal, I thought I had better get this straightened out quickly. I filled out the attached information form.

A few months later, I found some unauthorized charges on my account, so I contacted the real customer service center and the representative said I had been scammed. He fixed the problem with the charges, but I had to close that account and open a new one to avoid future problems.


One thing I've noticed is that a scammer will sometime misspell PayPal deliberately in the email. I've gotten suspicious emails from "PayPai" or "PyPal" in the past. They can copy the official PayPal logo pretty convincingly, but they almost always use a different spelling in the email or the return address line.

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