How to Beat PayPal Scams and Keep Your Money Safe and Secure

Whether you use PayPal for personal use or business transactions, scammers are out to get you. It's what you know and how you act that will keep your money safe.


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Updated 7 May 2021
How to Beat PayPal Scams and Keep Your Money Safe and Secure
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Phishing Statistics 2021


90% of data breaches are caused by phishing
3.4 billion phishing emails are sent every day

1.4 million phishing websites are created every month

Source: Digital InTheRound, 2021

Sections on this page
  1. 6 Tips to Beating PayPal Scams
  2. PayPal Scams: Red Flags To Watch Out For
  3. Report PayPal Scams
  4. Common PayPal Scams
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

PayPal has over 361 million users, making it a prime target for scammers. Because PayPal allows people to pay and accept payments without meeting face-to-face, the possibility of getting scammed can be significantly higher than with more traditional payment methods. However, you can protect yourself while using the platform and take measures to beat PayPal scams.

6 Tips to Beating PayPal Scams

Although PayPal scams are common, it doesn’t mean PayPal isn’t safe to use—it is still safer than other forms of money transfer, especially since it offers some protection for its users.

1. Keep Your Bank Account Safe

If you’re worried about PayPal scams, a good tip is to avoid linking your debit card or bank account to your PayPal account because if someone were to get inside your PayPal account, they could also empty your bank account. In addition, when your PayPal and bank account are linked, an attacker can transfer money from your bank account to your PayPal account and then send it to themselves. You can avoid this if you don’t link the two.

It’s better to link your PayPal account to a credit card instead, as it gives you an extra layer of protection from scammers. Not only will PayPal reimburse you if an item you purchase wasn’t as described or never arrives, but you can also dispute the charge with your credit card company.

2. Verify PayPal Links and Emails

If you see a link in an email that appears to be from PayPal, don’t click on it. It may be a spoof email, which has from a scammer. These emails will often have links that lead to a website that looks like a PayPal site (although you may spot some flaws) and asks you to enter your login credentials.

This is a common PayPal phishing scam that has been around for years. Some fake PayPal links may also come from individuals pretending to buy or sell items on sites like Craigslist but are actually trying to scam you.

3. Pay Attention to Your PayPal Balance

It’s also wise to keep a close eye on your PayPal and bank account balance. Thieves often make small withdrawals in the hopes that you won’t notice.

4. Enable Two-Step Verification

To add an extra layer of protection to your PayPal account, enable two-step verification (2SV) within your account settings. Once this is activated, you’ll need a second code (sent to your phone or retrieved using an authenticator app) whenever you try to log in.

This means that even if a scammer has your PayPal username and password, they won’t be able to get into your account because they’ll need your 2SV code.

5. Protect Your Devices

You should always make sure your computer is up to date with the latest malware protection software. This will repel attempts to hack into your computer and steal your files and information.

6. Don’t Use Public WiFi

You should also avoid using public WiFi when using PayPal or logging into any accounts, for that matter. On a public WiFi connection, it’s easy for a hacker to intercept your online communications.

Although PayPal does offer protection for buyers and sellers, not every transaction is covered. For example, PayPal won't cover items bought and sold in person, only things sold online.

PayPal Scams: Red Flags To Watch Out For

Usually, when someone tries to use PayPal to scam you, there are some signs of foul play that should raise some flags for you.

  • Requests to rush a shipment. If you’re selling something and the buyer asks for a rushed shipment, they may be hoping you won’t do your due diligence to check the payment has gone through first. They may have sent you a fake PayPal email to make it look like they made the payment, and hope you don’t check your account.
  • Overpayment for an item. In overpayment scams, the buyer (i.e., the scammer) will ask you to refund the extra money they “accidentally” sent you via wire transfer or ask you to give it to a third party (e.g., movers) who are also part of the scam.
  • Sketchy emails or links. Fraudulent PayPal emails are prevalent and key to phishing scams. Look for spelling/grammatical errors, blurry images, and strange links (i.e., non-PayPal links) to uncover a scam.

In addition to looking out for these red flags, you should also use best practices when doing anything online. See our tips on how to stay safe online.

Report PayPal Scams

If you notice any unauthorized activity on your PayPal account, it’s essential to report it to PayPal right away. Reporting quickly can help you get your money back (although not always guaranteed), and it can also help PayPal better detect these kinds of attacks in the future.

To report potentially fraudulent activity, you should:

  1. Go to the Resolution Center (you'll need to sign in to your account)
  2. Click where it says “Report a Problem”
  3. Find the transaction ID that you would like to dispute and select it
  4. Click Continue
  5. Choose “I want to report unauthorized activity”
  6. Follow the provided instructions to make a report.
Contact Details

PayPal



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It's important to verify links and contact details to beat imposters.

You can also report PayPal scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which will help authorities stop the scammers.

Common PayPal Scams

While there are several tactics scammers use, some are more common than others. It's vital to stay educated on any new scams lurking so you can better prepare for them and protect yourself. 

Account Suspension Scam

If you get an email that says your account is in danger of getting suspended, you may be the target of attempted fraud. It’s common for thieves to make it look as if an email is coming from PayPal and then put a threatening message in it in an attempt to get an emotional reaction.

These emails may also request your account password. PayPal doesn’t ask for login information over email. These spoof emails may also include a link to a site that looks a lot like the real PayPal site, hoping you enter your login credentials there.

Fake PayPal Payment Notification Email

If you are a seller, you may occasionally get a fraudulent message claiming you have received payment when, in fact, you haven’t. Scammers send fake emails hoping you send them the item you’re selling without checking to see if you’ve actually been paid for it.

It’s best to log into your PayPal account to verify that payment has been made.

Overpayment Scam

Fraudsters may also send you an email claiming a buyer overpaid. For example, you may be selling a phone for $300, and you get an email saying the buyer paid, but they sent you $400, which is $100 too much. The email will then direct you to send both the phone and the overpayment amount to the “buyer.” In reality, you weren’t paid at all, and you’d be sending both the item and extra money to a scammer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does PayPal refund money if I've been scammed?

Depending on your specific circumstance, PayPal might be able to return your money if you've been the victim of fraud. PayPal offers protection buyers for both buyers and sellers, but there are some limitations. 

Can you get scammed on PayPal?

Yes, unfortunately, PayPal scams are quite common, which is why you need to stay alert when using the website or app. Be sure to look out for any red flags when conducting transactions and know what to do if you encounter a scammer.

How do I get money back from PayPal if I've been scammed?

If you've been the victim of a PayPal scam, you can report a dispute on the site, and PayPal will investigate the matter. Note that it's not guaranteed that you will get your money back. 

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