How to protect yourself from PayPal abuse

Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and now PayPal. The new generation of electronic payment systems brings a new generation of criminals out the woodwork, keen to exploit all technological means.
7 March 2018

PayPal’s ubiquity only helps criminals try and exploit unsuspecting users. Source: Shutterstock

PayPal has placed itself into a dominating market position in the electronic payments space. It’s now a viable alternative to online credit card payments, and is often used by smaller businesses who don’t have the time or liquidity to be able to develop e-commerce ties to the large payment gateways.

But with its ubiquity comes the usual swathe of con-artists, mobsters (domestic and foreign) and ne’er-do-wells, all of whom would like to lighten your wallet of more than just a few dollars.

Here are a view things to keep your eye on to help protect yourself from the pervasive PayPal predators.

Fake ‘money received’ emails

A common scam that takes place on PayPal involves the sending of fake emails to a seller. Usually, upon a buyer purchasing an item from you, PayPal will send an email to notify you once you receive money. This is where a scam can occur.

It involves a scammer sending a fake email impersonating PayPal, ‘confirming’ that the money has been sent. The aim is to trick the seller into thinking the money has been paid, which prompts them into sending the item; without getting the money.

Before sending an item, you should always check the PayPal website for your balance and transactions in order to see If the money has come through.

Phishing emails

There is a whole range of phishing emails out there which claim to be from PayPal. Typically, these fraudsters will send emails containing links to fake websites where your personal or financial information can be collected if you enter it.

Never follow the link they have provided. If you still cannot see anything on the official site, then you can forward the speculated fake email to for confirmation.

Advance fee fraud

If it sounds too good to be true, the chances are, it probably is. And it seems we are much less cautious online when it comes to risky dealings. A common scam is somebody contacting you offering large amounts of money.

The fraudsters will typically ask you to send smaller amounts of money for things such as taxes and legal documents, before claiming they will send you the millions you are promised.

PayPal’s “Friends and Family” payments

So, you’ve confirmed to a seller that you’d like to purchase an item when the seller comes up with a “great” idea. They suggest that you could send the money via PayPal Friends And Family, which is free of fees.

However, these fees are there so PayPal can protect you. The Friends And Family option is there for people you know well and is designed for simple payments.

Furthermore, it is against PayPal’s user agreement for a seller to ask for a Friends And Family payment for a business transaction. So if this is offered, you should decline and report it.

“You have been over-paid”

Another common scamming tactic used by fraudsters is convincing you that you have been paid more than what you were owed.

The buyer will claim this was an accident and ask you to pay back the money. In fact, the scammer hasn’t sent you anything at all. Before sending any money, you should simply log into your PayPal account and check you were paid.