Knowing how scams work is key to outsmarting them. Social media profiles are usually the primary targets for scammers, but they are also known to go after payment systems.
With PayPal being one of the most used globally, it is no surprise that it is one of the most targeted platforms. Common sense is not enough to keep yourself safe, as the scams have become more complex and convincing.
Read on for five viral PayPal scams and how to protect your money.
Here’s the backstory
PayPal scams have been around for as long as the platform has, yet millions of users still fall for elaborate plots and sneaky tactics. Scams are so common that PayPal has a dedicated web page to explain different tricks and methods.
Here are five of the most common scams:
1. The faked sender’s email address scam
Red flags to look for: In this scam, criminals create a spoofed PayPal email address to make it look legitimate. It will often claim that your account is compromised or you successfully made a purchase. But after you reply to the mail with sensitive information, the scammers can take over your account and steal your money.
How to protect yourself: It can be challenging, but always try to verify the sender’s email address. A spoofed email address will look similar to PayPal but slightly different. An easy way to spot this is to click Reply and look at the return address. For example, an actual PayPal email will never come from a Gmail address.
2. The refund scam
Red flags to look for: Have you ever received a random email claiming funds were paid to your PayPal account? Did someone buy something but overpay you? These are often the first signs of a scam.
Criminals can send you a fake email or purchase confirmation, claiming they paid you too much or sent you payment by mistake. To correct the issue, they’ll ask for a refund. But the money never entered your account, and if you send them the refund, you lose your cash.
How to protect yourself: The easiest way to spot this scam is to log into your PayPal account and see if you were actually paid. Most likely, you weren’t, and you don’t need to send a refund. Also, if someone sends a payment to the wrong person, it’s up to them to go through PayPal to fix the problem.
3. The phishing scam
Red flags to look for: Similar to the spoofed email address, criminals send out millions of emails each year to “verify” details. The scam is usually the same, where the email claims that you need to verify your PayPal credentials as part of an annual security check.
The emails often include a malicious link. It will take you to a fake website that looks identical to PayPal, and when you log in, the criminals capture your details.
How to protect yourself: Never click on a link or download attachments in an unsolicited email or text message. If you want to check your PayPal account, always navigate to the actual PayPal page through your browser and avoid links in sketchy messages or emails. Report any suspect email by forwarding it to email@example.com. This can help keep you secure.
4. The limited account scam
Red flags to watch for: When you reach a certain limit of funds in your PayPal account, the platform might (legitimately) ask you to verify your details. But while it doesn’t block or restrict your account, scammers use it as bait.
It is probably a scam if you receive a text message claiming that your account is restricted or has limited access. The text message includes a link to a fake PayPal website that steals your credentials and money.
How to protect yourself: Never click on a link in a text message. If there is a problem with your account, you will get a notification on your PayPal dashboard.
5. Fake charity scam
Red flags to watch for: Scammers take advantage of natural disasters to dupe good-hearted individuals into donating to bogus charities. When there is a terror attack or a natural disaster, this frequently happens (like an earthquake, flooding, or famine).
How to protect yourself: Make sure any organization you donate to has a good track record, so you know your money is going to the right people. Be wary of a charity that does not have a website.