How PayPal users get scammed

You know how to use PayPal safely, but every day, scammers come up with new tricks to gain access to users’ accounts and empty their pockets digitally. Today we’re sharing some of fraudsters’ most popular schemes.

Advance payment fraud

It’s not unusual for online scammers to use so-called advance payment fraud, a classic Internet scam, to defraud PayPal users. Victims receive notifications that they are owed a certain amount of money — could be an inheritance, winning the lottery, or some other compensation.

The options are limitless, but whatever the story, the victim has to make a small advance payment (in this case, using PayPal), and maybe fill out a form with personal data, to receive the money. Of course, the message sender disappears upon payment, and any personal data disclosed ends up in a database and perhaps sold on the dark web.

How to avoid this scam: Do not transfer money or disclose information about yourself to strangers. Most of these messages have plenty of red flags: absurdly generous winnings or compensation, grammatical errors, a sender’s address that seems more appropriate for a robot than a living person, and so on. Pay close attention to all of the details and do not make decisions in a hurry.

PayPal account problems

Scam number two: Houston, we have a problem. This scam begins with an e-mail that claims to come from PayPal and says something is wrong with the recipient’s account. But don’t worry, the problem can be fixed — just click on this link and log in.

Now wait a moment. That sounds a lot like phishing!

In 99% of cases, the link leads to a page that looks more or less like the real PayPal site, although on a slightly different domain. Log in from there and both username and password go straight to the scammers.

In especially severe cases, fixing the alleged account problem may require installation of a program “to help restore access.” In fact, it will be a Trojan.

How to avoid the scam: Again, look for errors in the message and Web addresses that do not match the service’s official address, and always remember that PayPal will never report a problem to you using that kind of wording in an e-mail.

By the way, you can check whether a website is real or a phishing site using our OpenTip service. Even easier, install a security solution that protects you against phishing and online fraud — it will recognize dangerous Web pages automatically and block them, even when you’re rushed or distracted.

These days, scammers spread phishing links not only by e-mail, but also on social media. For example, someone might set up a Twitter account with a name like PayPalGifts and use it to target gullible users. It won’t last long, of course, but while the account is up it can reap quite a harvest of user credentials.

Overpayment refund scams

Let’s now turn to some ways scammers entice people to give them money almost entirely of their own free will. Among the most common scams in this category are overpayment scams, in which a buyer sends a seller payment, but for some reason they send more than the sales price. The buyer claims it is a mistake, and asks for a refund of the difference,

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