It is critical that online transactions, particularly financial ones and those involving the exchange of private and extremely sensitive information, are approached with a high level of caution. This means, whenever you are required to enter a username, password, or other information to access an important account. After all, the loss, theft, or compromise of this data can easily affect our lives in a very negative way. Namely, when it comes to financial transactions millions of people use trusted and well-established online companies such as PayPal.
Cybercriminals and scammers are also aware that millions of people use PayPal where they keep money, card information, names, addresses, and more. Such ill-intentioned individuals or groups are always on the prowl to compromise victims by orchestrating schemes, scams, or attacks on vulnerable entry points. For these reasons and many more which we will cover below in-depth, you must understand the many risks out there and pay attention to PayPal scams.
What is PayPal?
PayPal is one of the largest payment processors in the world, and probably the most widely-known online payment processor, with an estimated 500 million accounts registered across almost 400 million active users. PayPal began its life in the late 1990s under the name Confinity, and was quickly purchased by eBay at the time for $1.5 billion in 2002, although PayPal is now holding on its own. In fact, PayPal was purchased and sold more than once. Over 85% of online buyers prefer PayPal for its stability, security, and smoothness. The average user also conducts 40 transactions per year, and the average PayPal user has an estimated $480 in their accounts on average. In the U.S PayPal accounts for 25% of online transactions. The company has averaged almost $6 billion in revenue each year. Furthermore, PayPal is constantly innovating, for instance now entering the digital asset markets and allowing users to easily buy cryptocurrency. It is probably the most trusted payment platform in the world and as such has a lot of weight on its shoulders because of its solid, decades-old reputation. A company with so much power and responsibility has to have top-notch security and privacy measures, not to mention protecting their own databases filled with customer information and all kinds of money.
How to Avoid PayPal Scams
As one of the most widely used companies in the world that are constantly registering growth, PayPal, is a giant bullseye for cybercriminals and scammers looking to find victims and prey on their accounts in various creative ways using several tools at their disposal. Since PayPal is an online platform, the risks are automatically present simply because it operates in the risky realm of cyberspace. Any online platform of this size has to take into account server security, access security, and customer compromise. It is not always easy to secure such a large platform and protect all customers meanwhile offering a streamlined high-class experience, particularly from socially engineered scams such as email phishing. Several other examples of such risks are as follows;
- Hackers claiming there is a problem with your account
- Promotional offer scams
- Awaiting money scams
- Advance payment scams
- Shipping address scams
- Accounts being directly hacked
- Alternative payment request scams
- Overpayment schemes
- Pending payment schemes
- Fraudulent charity schemes
As you can see, there is no end to the creativity of money-hungry scammers and criminals. This is that which has them scrambling for solutions and that which motivates them most. Quick profits are also what can turn scammers and cybercriminals into merciless killers, unfortunately, such is the nature of money and power. All of these schemes can be orchestrated across several platforms, particularly via email, and social media websites such as Facebook or Instagram. It does not end there, though, as you are also vulnerable to SMS scams, and the hacking of your WiFi hotspot.
The top three most common PayPal scams are what is widely known as ‘problem with your account, ‘promotional offer’, and ‘money waiting’ scams. Not surprisingly, all three of these involve socially engineered email phishing techniques. This is simply because this is the simplest, least effort way to make a quick profit. All three of these scams will involve an email (obviously from a fake sender) that is either urging you to do something or trying to emotionally involve you in clicking a link or downloading an attachment in the email. This is what is known as a ‘phishing’ (fishing) email that tries to bait the user into complying.
What you can do to avoid all of this is quite simple, however easily overlooked by millions of people that entrust their devices, the security of their devices, and the intentions of others to an irrational extent. Here is what you need to understand and turn into a habit;
- Be suspicious of every email you receive, and always, always check the sender’s email address because email addresses can be easily spoofed and mimicked today
- PayPal emails that do not address you by name are 100% fraudulent
- Never interact with any emails urging you to provide sensitive information or download software
- Do not click on links in an email before you confirm the above information
- Always choose your shipping method
- Block package rerouting with your shipping organization
- Never deal with anyone else other than verified buyers and sellers online
Remember the adage “if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it is a duck.” So, if you ever suspect something is off, your instincts may be trying to warn you. For this reason, it is critical that you also set up spam filters in your email accounts, use antimalware and antivirus software, conduct your transactions with a VPN activated in the background, and never use a public WiFI hotspot to access PayPal or purchase items online. Adding to that, heed the recommendations above and you will avoid %99 of problems millions of uninformed users face daily.
Finally, in addition, here is how PayPal themselves can protect you (to an extent); Paypal Buyer Protection and PayPal Seller Protection.