11 PayPal Scams in 2022 and How to Avoid Them

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Summary: Most Common PayPal Scams in 2022

As one of the largest online payment processors in the world, PayPal is a huge target for scammers. Scammers prey on unwary PayPal users to steal goods and money in a number of creative ways.

The most common PayPal scams of 2022 include the following:

  • Hackers trick you into logging into a fake PayPal site.
  • Fraudsters claim you are entitled to a large sum of money, only to ask for an”advance payment.”
  • Scammers use fake shipping addresses, bogus shipping labels, and other strategies to send goods to untraceable destinations.
  • Hackers use a hacked PayPal account to pay for an item so they can file for a full refund.

To protect yourself from PayPal phishing attacks and shipping scams, we recommend you be extra critical of PayPal emails and links. Always use the PayPal website to review your transactions or contact the company. Never rely solely on the information provided in an email.

And if you suspect yourself of getting scammed, make sure to change your password. A password manager can help you secure your account against scammers. And our go-to recommendation is 1Password:

Secure Your Account With 1Password

Learn more about PayPal scams, how to avoid them, and what to do if you get scammed. Keep reading below.

PayPal is a giant in online payment processing, making it an appealing target for fraudsters looking for an easy payday. But given the company’s resources, hackers are less likely to try and breach Paypal’s security system. Instead, fraudsters target individuals who use PayPal.

For this reason, it’s important to understand the most common types of PayPal scams and how to avoid them.

11 Most Common PayPal Scams to Look Out For

Common phishing scam iconOver 400 million users make billions of transactions each year via Paypal. There are endless ways for scammers to try and separate you from your money. Scams may differ per platform, so popular scams on Facebook and Instagram aren’t necessarily the same as on PayPal. If you learn how fraudsters usually operate on PayPal, you’ll be better protected if they ever target you.

Scams often involve spoofing websites, or websites designed to look like PayPal. If you submit personal information on a spoofing website, the scammers record your information and then use it to access your account on the legitimate PayPal website. This is what’s known as a “phishing scam.”

But there’s more to the scams than just a fake Paypal website. Here are the most common PayPal scams to watch out for in 2022.

1. The “problem with your account” scam

Email is a scammer’s preferred method of stealing your money. You may receive a phishing email claiming that there is an issue with your PayPal account. The email will also include a link and a request that you click on it to log into your PayPal account. Here’s an example of a common PayPal phishing email:

Fake Paypal phishing email example

This email is bogus, and the link takes you to a spoofed PayPal website. When you enter your login credentials on the imposter site, the data is immediately transferred to the scammers. They now have everything they need to access your real PayPal account.

You can guess what happens next. These scams are some of the most common social engineering attacks designed to gain access to your PayPal account.

2. The “promotional offer” scam

Money with percentage in a red circleWith this scam, you receive an email offering a cash rebate or some other financial incentive. The email will tell you that all you have to do is log in to your PayPal account to verify a few details so you can claim that reward.

Just like other email scams, the link in the email directs you to a fake PayPal website. If you click on the link and enter your login credentials, the scammers get access to your credentials and can drain your account.

The offer will usually be an enticing proposition, like a big discount on a popular and expensive item. Promising you the world is a common trend in PayPal scams. If you let yourself get excited, you might overlook telltale signs that a scam is fake, like dodgy email addresses or the odd grammar mistake in your communication with the scammer.

3. The “you have money waiting” scam

Money with coins iconIn this scam, you’ll get an email telling you that you’ve received some money in your PayPal account. All you need to do is click on the link to release the funds! These scams can even be convincing at times, with the email design looking very close to legitimate PayPal emails. If you’re not careful, they can seem legitimate.

Unfortunately, the link in the scam email directs you to yet another pretend PayPal site. Once there, if you type in your PayPal login credentials, the scammers get that information and use it to gain access to your legitimate PayPal account. Worse yet, some of these links may automatically download malware on your device.

4. The “advance payment” scam

Advance payment iconWho doesn’t like receiving an unexpected windfall? This scam plays on emotion, sending you an email notification that you’ve won, inherited, or are entitled in some other way to receive a large sum of money from an unexpected source.

The only catch is that you first have to send a small sum via PayPal to cover transaction fees (or some other bogus expense). It’s enticing, which is what makes it so effective.

Sadly, the old adage “if it’s too good to be true” is appropriate here. Once you send the small sum, you never hear from the scammer again, and you’re out the money you sent.

5. The “shipping address” scam

Envelope with location pin next to itClever crooks have a ton of shipping tricks up their sleeve to try and steal your money from PayPal. Unlike unsolicited emails that lead you to a fake PayPal site, these scam methods involve actually engaging with you on the real PayPal platform.

If you sell items online, then you’re the target audience for these scams. There are several types of common PayPal scams that involve shipping addresses.

The buyer wants to use a preferred shipping method

The buyer will ask you to ship their item using their preferred shipping company. They might claim that they get a discount, that the shipping speed is faster, or any other reason. If you agree, the buyer can easily contact their shipper and reroute the package to a different address.

They then contact PayPal and file a claim for non-receipt and ask for a full refund. Since you can’t prove the item wasn’t received, you’re out the money, the item, and even the shipping fees.

The buyer provides their own shipping label

Sometimes, a buyer will offer to send you a pre-paid shipping label. They might claim that they get a cheaper rate or give some other generic excuse.

If you use their shipping label, the buyer can reroute the package to a totally different delivery address, claim they never received the item, and ask PayPal for a full refund.

The shipping label may also have been purchased using a stolen credit card, which exposes you to even more trouble.

The buyer gives a fake shipping address

A scammer will give you a fake address. When the shipping company cannot deliver the package to the invalid delivery address, the buyer will then step in and provide a new, legitimate delivery address.

But since the package gets rerouted, the buyer will allege they never received the item. Since the final delivery address doesn’t match the address listed on the Transaction Details page, PayPal will likely grant the refund.

PayPal does offer seller protection in these cases. But only if they have proof of delivery to the address listed on the Transaction Details page. Here’s an example of it, in case you’re not familiar:

screenshot of paypal transaction detail screen with shipping address highlighted

Since the scammer changed the final destination, sellers are left unprotected.

6. The “hacked account” scam

Hacked account iconIf you perform online transactions, a buyer might use a hacked PayPal account to pay you for your goods. You of course don’t know the account was hacked, so you ship the product as soon as payment is confirmed.

Unfortunately, once PayPal discovers the hack, it will withdraw the funds from your account. You’re left without both your product and the payment.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do to protect yourself from this scam. But what you can definitely do is prevent your own account from getting hacked. Every security measure you take to keep your account safe will help stop someone from hacking your account.

7. The “alternate payment method” scam

Alternate payment method iconThis isn’t really a scam in and of itself, but rather a measure scammers take to leave you without options after defrauding you.

Sometimes, a scammer will ask you to transfer money using PayPal’s Friends and Family option. This may sound good because it eliminates the fee that PayPal levies on standard sale transactions.

Unfortunately, paying for goods is not permitted under the Friends and Family money transfer option. Any payments made like this are no longer protected by the PayPal protection program. Once you transfer money this way for goods, you have no recourse against claims of fraud.

8. The “overpayment” scam

Overpayment iconIn this scam, a buyer will purchase something from you and send you more than the agreed-upon sale price. They will then claim the overpayment was a mistake and request a refund for the difference. They’ll ask you to send the refund directly to an account outside PayPal, usually to avoid any transaction fees.

Once the scammer gets the money, they dispute the original transaction on PayPal (usually claiming their account was hacked and no payment to you was intended). PayPal refunds them the full amount, and the money you sent them outside PayPal is gone forever.

9. The “payment pending” scam

Pending payment icon, money and clockA buyer will engage with you on PayPal to pay for an item you sell. They message you, claiming to have made the payment, but that PayPal won’t release the money to you until you provide a shipment tracking number.

The scammer wants you to ship the product and provide the tracking number before you get paid. If you do, the fraudulent buyer gets the item and disappears without you ever getting paid.

10. The “fake charities” scam

Money and dark blue crossScammers often use PayPal to con kind-hearted people looking to make a donation. In case of natural disasters, many people search for local charities where they can donate to relief efforts. Scammers use this to their advantage. They set up fake charities or donation sites and ask you for contributions via PayPal.

Before you make any charitable donations via PayPal, do your due diligence and verify that the charity is legitimate. There are several websites that do this, including Charity Navigator and Charity Watch.

Another way to tell if a charity is valid is to check its website. If a charity doesn’t have a website, this is a big red flag. If the website looks suspicious (doesn’t use HTTPS protocol for example), it’s best to avoid it.

11. The “callback phishing email” scam

In this scam, you’ll get an email warning you of “suspicious activity” in your PayPal account, usually with a large transaction ($500 to $1,000) involved. The email will urge you to call a number to cancel the transaction. Nobody wants to get a random $1,000 charge, so this is pretty effective at getting people to call. Especially when you think the phone number is PayPal customer support.

In reality, it’s a scam call center that will try to get your PayPal login details and other personal information or make you navigate to a malware-infested website. This type of scam was first exposed by user 0xdf on Twitter in this thread. What’s scary about it is how convincing it is:

Screenshot of PayPal Callback Email screenshot

The scammers used @paypal.com email addresses, realistic email designs, and even created fake invoices to create a sense of urgency. Joseph Roosen has been tracking this kind of scam for a while and offers more details in this Twitter thread.

To protect yourself, make sure only to contact PayPal using the number listed on its website. Never use a phone number or email address delivered to you via email.

Also, PayPal representatives will never ask you for your login details (your username and password), as their systems allow them to view transactions. They may ask you for personal information to verify your identity (such as your name), but never login details.

How PayPal Protects You Against Scams

Is your money safe iconPayPal offers two types of protection for its users: PayPal Buyer Protection and PayPal Seller Protection. But not every transaction is covered. So let’s discuss how they work, and how you can qualify for PayPal protection.

PayPal Buyer Protection

If a qualifying transaction on PayPal goes wrong, the buyer is entitled to a full refund of their order. Buyers have 180 days to dispute a transaction. To qualify for Buyer Protection, the purchaser must:

  • Pay with PayPal
  • Make a single PayPal payment (no installment payment arrangements)
  • Keep their account in good standing
  • File the dispute within 180 days

Buyer protection covers physical goods that can be posted and that don’t break PayPal’s terms of service. For example, if you buy a book and get a DVD instead, you qualify for a Buyer Protection refund.

Items that aren’t covered include real estate, motorized vehicles, custom-made items, travel tickets, or intangible items like services.

PayPal Seller Protection

For businesses accepting PayPal as a payment method for the sale of goods or services, the Seller Protection program guarantees that the seller may retain the full purchase price when certain criteria are met.

To qualify, the seller must:

  • Have a primary PayPal address in the United States
  • Sell tangible, physical items
  • Ship to the address listed on the Transaction Details page
  • Provide valid proof of shipment or delivery

PayPal Seller Protection makes sure you get your money after delivering a product or service. To kickstart the process, you need to provide proof of delivery for tangible items or any proof that the service was provided for intangible items.

How to Protect Yourself From PayPal Scams

Staying safe on PayPal also requires vigilance and common sense. Here are some ways you can keep your account safe from PayPal scams.

Five tell-tale signs of a PayPal phishing email

Infographic showing signs of a PayPal phishing email

It only takes scammers a few minutes to get into your account. You can lose your money for something as insignificant as clicking the wrong link in an email. To help you stay safe, we researched common PayPal scams and compiled a list of the telltale signs of a PayPal phishing email:

  1. A sense of urgency: Phishing emails manufacture urgency to get you to click links, download attachments, or input your credentials on a fake website. Don’t fall for it. Take your time, read emails carefully, and only use Paypal’s official website.
  2. Suspicious display name or email address: The email you receive might say it comes from “PayPal,” but you’ll need to check more than that to avoid getting scammed. You need to look at the actual email address they used. Anyone can create a legitimate-looking display name, but it’s harder to fake a legitimate email address. Click or tap on the sender’s display name, and the real email address behind the display name should be revealed. Note that PayPal only uses the @paypal.com email domain. So if you receive an email from an address called “[email protected]”, then that email address is fake, and the email is a scam.
  3. Doesn’t address you by name: Legitimate emails from PayPal will always include your actual name (exactly as shown on your account). Greetings like “Dear Customer” or “Dear PayPal user” indicate a scam attempt. If your name in the email doesn’t match your PayPal account name, that could also be a sign that the email is fake.
  4. Asks you to provide sensitive information or to download apps: PayPal states on its website that it will never send you an email that asks for sensitive information like your password, bank information, or credit card details. They will also never send an email asking you to download or install any software. If you receive an email asking for your password or asking you to install an app, that email is definitely fake.
  5. Poorly written email text: Phishing emails generally have grammar and spelling mistakes. Contrary to popular belief, that’s usually on purpose. Poorly written text is like a filter for gullible victims.

Seven tips on how to avoid PayPal scams

Infographic showing how to avoid PayPal scams

There are several actions you should take to avoid getting scammed out of your hard-earned money. Being aware of the different kinds of PayPal scams is only the first step. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Don’t send money outside PayPal if you transacted on the website. Let’s say you conduct a transaction on PayPal but your customer accidentally sends a larger amount than agreed upon. This other person now wants a refund sent through a different platform. If you comply with their request, PayPal won’t be able to help you since the refund was processed outside of their system. If a buyer overpays you, cancel the transaction immediately and start over.
  2. Always use your own shipping method. When you choose the shipping method, you control delivery and won’t be tricked with bogus shipping labels or rerouted packages.
  3. Only ship to the address on the Transaction Details page. When you ship only to this address, you satisfy one of the requirements of PayPal’s Seller Protection program.
  4. Block package rerouting with your shipping company. Contact your shipping agency and add this layer of protection to every shipment. The buyer can’t reroute your package, receive it elsewhere, and claim it was never delivered.
  5. Only deal with verified buyers and sellers. Verifying a PayPal account is a bit of trouble, and it requires sharing personal information with the platform. So anyone that did it is most likely not a scammer. If you do business with non-verified PayPal accounts, proceed with extreme caution.
  6. Be wary of email links and attachments. Don’t click on email links, even if they look legitimate. It’s much safer to log in to your PayPal account directly in your browser or app. If there are problems with your transactions, the app or website should reflect them, and you should be able to access any important links from there.
  7. Get a good antivirus. Some PayPal scammers will try to get malware on your computer. Never download anything sent to you via email, and use reliable antivirus software. Antivirus scanners like Norton can help protect you from such attacks.

For more tips on how to stay safe on PayPal, check out these tips for keeping your PayPal account safe.

What to Do If You’re the Victim of a PayPal Scam

If you think that someone has scammed you on PayPal, here are some of the steps you can take to protect yourself.

Type of FraudWhat to Do
Fake PayPal email or spoof websiteYou receive what you believe is a fake email from PayPal:
  1. Forward it to [email protected]
  2. Delete the email.
  3. If you clicked on any links and/or provided any sensitive information, log in into your PayPal account and check for suspicious activity. Change your password.

The email you receive seems to be a legitimate email from PayPal:

  1. Log in to your PayPal account via browser or app.
  2. Check your Message Center. This is where legitimate emails from PayPal regarding issues with your account (along with steps to fix the situation) will appear.
Unauthorized account activityIf, after logging in to your PayPal account, you notice a suspicious transaction:
  1. Scroll to the bottom of any page and click “Resolution Center.”
  2. Click “Report a Problem.”
  3. Select the transaction you want to dispute and click “Continue.”
  4. Select “I want to report unauthorized activity.”
  5. Click “Continue.”
  6. Follow additional instructions.
Fraudulent transaction or buyer/sellerIf you sent a payment but didn’t get what you expected, shipped an item and never received payment, or you think the other party is a scammer:
  1. Scroll to the bottom of any page and click “Resolution Center.”
  2. Click “Report a Problem.”
  3. Select the transaction you want to dispute and click “Continue.”
  4. Select “I didn’t receive an item I purchased…” or “I want to report unauthorized activity.”
  5. Click “Continue.”
  6. Follow additional instructions.

What’s more, if you think you’ve fallen victim to a PayPal scam, immediately change your PayPal password.

If you’re looking for ways to create strong, secure, unique passwords for PayPal and your other online accounts, consider using a third-party password manager or the feature built into your favorite browser. Don’t forget to change your PayPal security questions, too.

Our top password manager pick is 1Password, thanks to its advanced encryption and secure file storage. Learn more about it here:

Secure Your Account With 1Password

Protect Yourself Against Paypal Scams

PayPal is one of the most popular online payment services in the world, and for good reason. It offers buyers and sellers an easy, convenient, and safe way to exchange money with almost anyone, anywhere, and in many currencies.

But if you’re not careful, scammers can interfere and make it a dangerous place. Most often, they’ll send you an email pretending to be PayPal and try to get you to part with your login details on a phishing website. PayPal overpayment scams and shipping scams are also pretty common.

The best way to protect against them is to be vigilant. Pay close attention to any email or payment you get. Never click on links from PayPal emails, and remember that official PayPal communications will always address you by name. Don’t use the Friends and Family transactions for business payments, and don’t refund people outside of PayPal.

If you want to find out more about how to stay safe online, check out some of our other articles:

PayPal Scams: Frequently Asked Questions

Check out our list of the most frequently asked questions we receive about PayPal scams. If you still have questions, drop us a line. We’re always happy to help.

Legitimate PayPal emails will always address you in the body of the message with your real name (exactly as it appears in your account). Real PayPal emails will also originate exclusively from an @paypal.com address. To check the email address of the sender, click or tap on the sender’s display name to see the actual email address used. You can also read about other PayPal scams.

PayPal offers two protection programs: the Buyer Protection program and the Seller Protection program. If you feel you’ve been the victim of a PayPal scam, visit PayPal’s Resolution Center, and file a complaint about the transaction in question. PayPal will follow up with additional steps to take regarding your claim. PayPal is relatively safe, but it doesn’t hurt to secure your account.

Go to PayPal’s Resolution Center to file a formal complaint about any questionable transaction. If you receive a fake PayPal email, forward it to [email protected] Also, it’s best to read about the most popular PayPal scams in 2022.

Whether PayPal refunds your money depends on the type of transaction involved. It also depends on if you meet the requirements of the Buyer Protection or Seller Protection program. Additionally, if you have tied your bank account or debit card to your PayPal account, PayPal may defer to your financial institution for hacks that withdraw money directly from your bank account.

If you believe you received a fake PayPay email, send it to [email protected] Then delete the email from your inbox.

Author
Tech writer
Theodor is a content writer passionate about the newest tech developments and content marketing strategies. He likes privacy-friendly software, SEO tools, and when he's not writing, he's trying to convince people they should uninstall TikTok.
Author
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.
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  1. My scam was a phishing email pretending I had an outstanding invoice to ship I don’t know what to a name I don’t know, in Orlando where I don’t know anybody. It had a bogus Customer Service number. Never use links or phone numbers in an email; go straight to the company website and use their customer service number. When I did that the automated response told me how to forward the email for Paypal to deal with. While I was logged in I looked at the transactions on my dashboard; they were all familiar to me and the one in the email was not listed.

    • We completely agree. You should never use any email addresses or phone numbers from suspicious emails, as well as never click on links. Using the contact information directly from the website is the safest option. Sounds like you handled this scam perfectly.

  2. I opened my PayPal account because I had two gift cards to sell because I couldn’t return them. I put them on for sale, someone said that they were interested. They sent me a fake letter from PayPal saying that payment has been received. I sent the card and to find out it was a fake letter so I got burned for $75. Well, PayPal never offered me any kind of refund so I don’t know where this is coming from. I’m curious why I wasn’t offered that.

    • I understand how frustrating this can be. PayPal does offer buyer and seller protection, but that is only with transactions made through the platform. It sounds like you received a scam email with a spoofed email address and the payment was never even initiated on the platform. Because of this, PayPal will not cover the loss. We do recommend that you forward PayPal the scam email you received to see if they can investigate it. While this may not assist you, it could help the company combat this type of scam in the future.

  3. I just got a phone call on my mobile from someone claiming that it was paypal reporting that there was a suspicious transaction on my account and unless I pressed 1 they (paypal) were going to honor it….I hung up and checked my paypal account. There were no transactions pending….Very obviously a scam…..Beware of this scam…Just hang up..

  4. Recently I answered a trivia question on Instagram. Thought it was a scam, girl offered to send me the $2000 prize, so I sent paypal.me/(info my name)

    Poof they were gone.

    • We definitely don’t recommend sharing your personal information with anyone, unless you absolutely trust them. This sounds like a possible “giveaway scam”, as listed in our Instagram scams article. Definitely keep an eye out for suspicious activity and change your PayPal password if you can, just to be on the safe side.

  5. Every time i go to use Pay Pal, a black screen pops up and covers my whole screen. I can see the Pay Pal pay page i was starting to fill out through this black screen. It has in white letters a message telling me “Don’t see the secure PayPal browser? (which i was on before the black screen showed up) We’ll help you re-launch the window to complete your purchase. Click to continue” I close the window every time but it’s annoying as i’d like to pay or donate using Pay Pal. Is this a legitimate thing or not? Thank you!

    • It appears that more people have had this message pop up. It seems to be an automated message that shows up when you aren’t redirected. However, if you have any doubts about the legitimacy, we’d advise you to get in touch with PayPal’s help center via their official website. They can aid you directly, figure out what’s wrong, and make sure you can use PayPal safely.

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