Is PayPal Safe? 9 Tips to Secure Your PayPal Account Today

Person holding a smartphone up to a safe that has the PayPal logo on it
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How to Keep Your PayPal Account Safe: A Quick Guide

PayPal is one of the most popular ways to transfer money around the world. But is PayPal safe?

It is, mostly. Here are nine tips to keep your money safe on PayPal.

  1. Enable two-factor authentication on your account. This option is disabled by default. You can choose PayPal’s Security Key feature (a unique code is texted to you each time you log in) or a third-party authenticator application, like Google Authenticator.
  2. Avoid using public Wi-Fi. Your data is likely to be unsecure on a public Wi-Fi. Avoid accessing sensitive sites like PayPal.
  3. Keep your software up to date. It’s important that you update the OS on your computer and smartphone before accessing PayPal.
  4. Use the credit card as your primary funding method. Instead of linking your bank account, use your credit card as the primary funding method.
  5. Only deal with verified buyers and sellers. This mitigates the risk of dealing with users who have malicious intent.
  6. Avoid clicking on links in emails. One of the most common PayPal scams is phishing emails. They make claims about the security of your PayPal account, and ask you to click on a link in the email to resolve the issue. Don’t fall for this. To verify if a PayPal email is legitimate, log in to your account and visit the Message Center.
  7. Use a unique username and password. Don’t use the same username and password for all your credentials online.
  8. Monitor your account. It’s best to regularly check your account to make sure that there weren’t any fraudulent transactions.
  9. Use a VPN. When you access the internet via a Virtual Private Network, all the data you send across the internet is encrypted by the VPN service provider. This adds an additional layer of security to your information anytime you need to access your PayPal account. We recommend ExpressVPN as the best VPN for PayPal.

To find out more ways you can secure your PayPal account, read our full article below.

With nearly 400 million registered users, PayPal is one of the largest online payment platforms in the world. Today, it is the fifth most popular payment method for online transactions.

It is very popular, but is PayPal safe?

How PayPal Safeguards Transactions

The online payment giant processed more than 3.74 billion transactions during the first quarter of 2021 alone, amounting to approximately 285 billion U.S. dollars.

To keep these transactions safe, PayPal uses what they call “next-level encryption.” They also offer security features like two-factor authentication to further safeguard user accounts.

Beyond that, PayPal has a Bug Bounty Program, which offers financial payouts to ethical hackers who identify bugs in PayPal’s defense systems.

Together, these efforts make PayPal a generally safe platform for financial transactions. However, like any other online platform, PayPal is not bulletproof.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe on PayPal

Even with the most robust security features in place, sometimes PayPal accounts do get hacked. This is usually the result of a PayPal user falling for a phishing scam or other fraud attempts where people end up disclosing their login credentials or other personal information.

The good news is that there are some easy steps you can take to keep your PayPal account safe.

1. Enable two-factor authentication

One of the easiest ways to protect your PayPal account (and all online accounts, for that matter) is to enable two-factor authentication (2FA).

PayPal offers two ways to set up a second level of authentication for your account – using a SecurityKey (you will receive a code via text message each time you log in) or a third-party authenticator app, like Google Authenticator.

To turn on two-factor authentication on your PayPal account, do the following.

  1. Log in to your PayPal account.
  2. Choose Profile Settings from the dropdown menu on your account name.
  3. Click Login and Security.
    Paypal Login and Security menu option
  4. Scroll down to 2-Step Verification and click Update.
  5. Choose which method of authentication you want to use.
    Paypal two factor authentication options screen
  6. Click Set It Up and follow any additional prompts.

2. Avoid using public Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi at coffee shops, train stations, and airports can seem like a great option to save on mobile data when you’re away from home. However, when you go online in a public space, you never know who is watching, or worse – capturing all the information you send online.

There are countless threats that come with the convenience of using public Wi-Fi, especially when you transmit sensitive financial information, so it’s important to take steps for your safety while connected to public Wi-Fi. To keep your PayPal account information safe, it is best to avoid accessing your PayPal account on any public Wi-Fi hotspots.

If you do need to check your PayPal balance or make a transaction, stick to using your mobile data.

3. Keep your software up to date

Security threats continuously evolve, and developers regularly update their software to address newly discovered issues.

It is good practice to update your computer, smartphone, and apps whenever a new version of software is available. These updates almost always contain patches that address new security threats or vulnerabilities.

Failing to keep your software up-to-date exposes you to unnecessary security risks.

4. Use a credit card as your funding method

Although linking your PayPal account to your bank account or debit card is easy and convenient, it is also a risky move. Should hackers gain access to your PayPal account, they can easily drain your bank account – often before you are aware of the hack. How far your bank will go to remedy the situation depends on your financial institution. In some instances, you may have no recourse at all.

However, if you link your PayPal account to a credit card, your bank account shall remain safe. You also have additional protection, including directly disputing any fraudulent charges with your credit card company. This is in addition to the dispute you can lodge with PayPal itself.

5. Only deal with verified buyers and sellers

Anyone with an email address can open a PayPal account, including fraudsters. However, legitimate buyers and sellers take the extra step to get verified as a way to prove the integrity of their account.

Verification involves providing additional identifying data to PayPal. This type of personal information, like a social security number (in the United States), is something scammers aren’t usually willing to provide, or simply don’t have.

When you only engage with PayPal verified accounts, you greatly reduce the risk that the person on the other side of the transaction is someone trying to rip you off.

One of the most popular PayPal scamming techniques involves sending unsolicited emails. A PayPal user receives an email message claiming some sort of issue with their account, followed by a request to click on a link in the body of the email.

Unfortunately, the link is fake and designed to get you to hand over confidential information, most often your login credentials.

Here’s an example of a fake PayPal email we recently received.

Fake Paypal phishing email example

It is easy to avoid falling victim to a phishing scam like this. Never click on links in emails you receive.

To verify if a PayPal email you received is legitimate, open a browser and log in to your PayPal account from there. If the email was on the up-and-up, you will have communications in your PayPal message center. No messages in your account? Delete the email, it is spam. Also, when logging into PayPal, always check for the “lock” symbol to the left of the address bar.

7. Use a unique username and password

In today’s online world, one of the easiest ways to protect your PayPal account (and every online account, for that matter), is to use strong, unique login credentials. While you’ll often use your email address as the user name, your password should be different for each account.

This is where a password manager comes in handy. Whether you use a third-party password manager or the one built into your favorite browser, you will be able to generate highly complex passwords at the click of a button. You’ll also be able to save your new passwords securely and easily auto-fill them anytime you want to log in to an account.

Even if you still rely on the old “post-it note stuck to your computer screen” method of saving passwords (which we absolutely do NOT recommend), be sure to use a complex password that is unique to PayPal to keep your account secure.

8. Monitor your account

Relying on PayPal to execute financial transactions should never be a “set it and forget it” scenario. As with all your other financial accounts, you should regularly log in and check up on balances and transactions in PayPal.

Fraudsters who gain access to your PayPal account often start off by testing your account with a series of small transactions. If those are successful, they move on to bigger transactions that can clean out your account in the blink of an eye. If you are keeping a close eye on your account, you’ll notice suspicious activity early and can act on it quickly.

It only takes a few seconds to access your account and notice any irregularities. Get in the habit of doing this regularly, and you can nip a potential issue in the bud before it turns into a very big problem.

9. Use a VPN

One of the best ways to protect your PayPal account, especially if you must access it when you’re away from the security of your home network, is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN encrypts all the data you send online, adding an extra level of security for all your online transactions, including accessing and using your PayPal account.

A VPN is especially handy when you are traveling and hop on a free hotspot. While we already cautioned against using public Wi-Fi to log in to your PayPal account, there are times when you have no other option. The most common scenario is that you are in another country, and don’t want to incur roaming charges for using mobile data. A VPN allows you to stay secure while using a public network.

If you’re shopping for a VPN, check out our latest reviews on the best VPNs on the market today. If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to compare options, we recommend ExpressVPN. With thousands of servers all across the globe and a host of security-focused features, this is our favorite VPN for PayPal. It’s also one of the best ways to protect yourself against common PayPal scams.

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Other Considerations When Using PayPal

PayPal is a safe and highly efficient way to send and receive money around the world. However, it is not a replacement for a bank account or credit card. Instead, it should be considered a complementary way to move money to and from other PayPal users.

There are a few reasons for this.

  • Your PayPal balance is not insured. This is unlike regular bank accounts (in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union). Should PayPal collapse, any money you have in your account may also simply disappear.
  • Customer service is not on par with that of other financial institutions. The internet abounds with horror stories from PayPal users who struggled to find help when a problem arose with their accounts. Although PayPal offers multiple ways to contact them for customer service, the results are often frustrating and inconsistent.
  • It can take weeks or months to resolve disputed transactions. Whether it is the buyer disputing a transaction or PayPal flagging a transaction as suspicious, the review process can sometimes drag on with no explanation. During that time, the amount in dispute (and sometimes your entire account balance) will be frozen and inaccessible to you.

Although these scenarios are unusual, they do happen from time to time. They are worth noting when you decide how you want to use PayPal.

Final Thoughts

PayPal works hard to ensure a robust and secure online financial transaction platform. They use a variety of means to keep their systems safe from hackers. The platform also offers users additional features to further secure their accounts.

PayPal users can also take other steps to keep their individual accounts safe.

PayPal is one of the easiest ways to send and receive money almost anywhere in the world. With vigilance and proper security habits, your PayPal account will be safe and well-protected.

Is PayPal Safe? - Frequently Asked Questions

Didn’t find what you were looking for in our article? Want to know more about something? Check out our FAQ below. If you still have questions, get in touch. We’re happy to help.

Millions of people use PayPal to receive payment for goods and services they sell. PayPal goes to great lengths to ensure a safe experience for sellers.

They offer a Seller Protection service that protects against chargebacks, reversals, and related fees. It also protects against unauthorized transactions and claims for items not received. PayPal also offers 24/7 monitoring to quickly identify suspicious transactions. When problems with a transaction arise, PayPal offers dispute resolution services.

PayPal is one of the most convenient ways to pay for goods and services. They process 25 currencies in over 200 markets around the world.

In addition to shielding your financial information, PayPal also monitors all accounts 24/7 to identify any suspicious activity. They encrypt all data to keep your online transactions safe and secure, and offer dispute resolution services when there is an issue with a transaction. Here are nine ways to protect your PayPal.

The PayPal platform is generally safe to use, especially when you take additional, common-sense steps to secure your individual account.

However, it is recommended to avoid linking your PayPal account directly to your bank account. This is because, should your PayPal account somehow be accessed by fraudsters, they will have direct access to the money in your bank account. This risk is avoided when you link your PayPal account to a credit card, instead.

Of course, if you don’t have a credit card, then your bank account or debit card are the only viable alternatives. In this scenario, be sure to take extra precautions to secure your PayPal account.

When you link your PayPal account to a credit card, you provide an additional layer of protection to your finances. Should your PayPal account be hacked and fraudulent transactions made, you will have the protection offered by both PayPal itself and your credit card company.

Also, when you link to a credit card rather than your bank account, you avoid putting your bank balances at risk. It’s also one of the best ways to protect against PayPal scams.

Tech journalist
Liz is a professional writer with a special interest in online privacy and cybersecurity. As a US expat who travels and works in diverse locations around the world, keeping up with the latest internet safety best practices remains her priority.