What is a Paypal Scam Email and How to Spot it?

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If you’re often paying or getting paid online, one of the best options to do either is PayPal. However, like everything else on the Internet you always need to be ready for that PayPal scam email you might receive one day.

So what is a fake PayPal email scam and what to do if you get one?

This article will teach you how to spot a PayPal scam email and what to do if you get one, including how to report it, so keep on reading to find out.

What Does a PayPal Scam Email Look Like?

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When a group of young entrepreneurs today collectively known as the “PayPal Mafia” (which includes names such as the founder and CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk; founder of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman; co-founder of YouTube, Jawed Karim and CEO of Yelp Jeremy Stoppelman), founded PayPal back in 1998, they might have had a good idea of how important their product will be in a decade or two.

However, what they probably didn’t think about is how their new product will be used in scams.

PayPal scams started appearing almost as soon as it was clear that there is money in it, but in 2019, they especially went through the roof.

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According to Vade Secure, PayPal phishing in Q1 2019 increased by 167.8% compared to the Q4 2018 period.

Of course, there are many different types of PayPal scams, so let’s see how do scammers scam you with your PayPal email?

There are several ways they can do this:

  1. “There is a problem with your account”

This is a common scam, not just when it comes to PayPal. You receive a spoofed email supposedly from PayPal in which they tell you that there is “a problem with your account” and that it will be suspended soon. To “prevent this” you are given a link to a fake PayPal website (actually a phishing website) and asked to give your PayPal credentials there.

To avoid this:

  • Make sure that the email is from PayPal, if not,
  • Do not respond or give out any information (personal or related to your PayPal account).
  • Do not click or open any links or attachments in the email.
  • Forward the email to the following email address: [email protected]
  1. Advanced fee fraud

Another common PayPal scam that users might encounter is the “Advanced Fee Fraud” or “Advanced Fee Scam” and the most infamous example of it is the“Nigerian Prince” scam.

This scam works like this:

  • The scammer sends you an email saying that you’ve got an inheritance (long lost, unknown relative, or something like that) to a large sum of money.
  • However, to claim it, you need to first provide your personal information such as full name, phone number, contact address, ID and so on. That’s how the scammer will be able to steal your identity.
  • And, if that’s not enough, the scammer will also ask for a “small advance fee”. By the time you realize that you’ve been duped, it’s very difficult to get a refund, which is why scammers so often use PayPal for this scam.

To avoid it:

  • The “Advanced Fee Fraud” is so well-known today that it will probably land in your spam folder already, so in most cases, you can just ignore it or delete it.
  • If, however, it somehow manages to avoid the spam filters, it will be easy to recognize it by a large number of grammar and spelling errors, outrageous claims ($10,000,0000 and such) and not coming from a legitimate and verified source.
  • Do not send money or respond to emails from someone you don’t know.
  1. Fake investment opportunity

Here’s another very common email scam where you might receive an email from someone who claims to, for example, have a “big investment opportunity”, but needs a “partner” (and you happen to be that “lucky” partner), so they ask for a “small investment” (but in return you are promised “a large return on your investment”).

The “Fake Investment” scam email will usually look like this:

How to avoid it:

  • Search for the company through the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or the equivalent in your country.
  • If the company is non-existent, don’t respond or give out any information they ask you.
  • Always use the “if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably fake” rule.
  1. Fake charities

Fake charities usually spring up after a great tragedy like mushrooms after a rain. Here, the scammer will try to play on your emotions and ask you to “donate” to a “charity website” through PayPal and provide a link. The website, of course, is a phishing one.

To avoid it:

  1. Overpayment scam

This PayPal scam email targets vendors primarily and works like this:

  • The vendor sells something to the buyer.
  • The “buyer” sends too much as payment.
  • They then request the difference back, but to a different account.

In this case, the buyer was likely using phony bank information and/or a stolen credit card, so not only do they get the item, but also some of the money back, without much risk.

Even if the real account owner spots and reports this, PayPal will cancel the payment and return money to them (as they should), but the seller (you) will be out of the product and the money the scammer “overpaid” (since you returned it to a different account).

How to avoid:

  • Buyers almost never overpay. People are very careful about giving the exact amount on PayPal, so the chances of them “overpaying” are very low.
  • If you get an overpayment request, cancel the order.
  • In case the request was indeed legitimate, return the difference to the same account and not a different one.

How to Report PayPal Email Scam?

Okay, so you received a PayPal scam email and spotted it (good job). You know better than responding, giving out your credentials via phishing websites, or sending any money to the scammer.

But what about a PayPal scam email report?

To report a fake PayPal email scam, or any suspicious email be sure to:

  1. Forward the email to [email protected].
  2. Don’t change the subject line or forward the email as an attachment (To forward an email on Gmail, click on the three dots on the top-right of the email and click “Forward Email”).
  3. Finally, delete the suspicious email from your inbox.

PayPal will then look into the email and tell you if it is fraudulent. If it is, they’ll block it.

And remember, always have your eyes open for email scams and make sure that the email is from a legitimate source.

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