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PayPal Scams

Fraud Prevention Center


The United States Federal Trade Commission determined that in 2022, the most reported scam was the Impersonator scam. Historically, scammers will impersonate organizations such as government agencies, non-profit groups, universities, or charities to offer fraudulent services or otherwise defraud victims. More recently, fraudsters have evolved their schemes to target peer to peer payment platforms, particularly PayPal.


How does the scam start?

Fraudsters pose as PayPal representatives often initiating communication to victims with an email purporting to be from PayPal. The subject header of the email communication usually includes variations of the following:

  • Your PayPal account has been temporarily restricted.
  • Your PayPal account needs to be verified.
  • Your PayPal account is on hold.
  • Action Requested - Payment Received
  • Suspicious activity has been linked to your PayPal account.

The emails will appear legitimate as fraudsters will use the same colors, branding, and logo that PayPal uses.

Tip Always review the sender’s email address to find out where the email originates from. The email will always be from an unknown email address that is not in any way connected to the real PayPal. Review the domain name for clues that will determine the legitimacy. PayPal will never send emails from Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, or other personal email accounts. 


How does the scam ensnare a victim?

The language in the email plays on and relies on a victim’s natural tendency to want to immediately correct or respond to the issue with their PayPal account. Scare tactics or routine administrative requests are used to entice the victim into responding, such as:

  • To ‘avoid penalties'
  • To prevent your ‘PayPal account from being disabled’
  • To ‘maintain the safety of your account’
  • To ‘unlock your account’
  • To 'confirm account ownership’

Finally, the email will instruct victims to provide documents, information, or personal details in order to fix the issue.

The emails will usually include a deadline to complete the request to avoid a penalty or account closure or restrictions, which creates a false sense of urgency for victims that feel they must act immediately to fix the PayPal issue. 

Tip Always login directly to the PayPal website or application using your own credentials. Review your PayPal account only within the portal on their website. 

Tip Do not call the ‘Customer Service’ number listed in the email, and do not click on any unknown links. Protect yourself and your computer by ignoring and deleting the email. 


Remember, legitimate companies, including PayPal, will never rush or threaten you, or ask for your personal information. If you are communicating with someone unsolicited, whether it be by email, phone, or text and they ask for personal information such as Social Security Number, Date of Birth, or bank account details, payment of any kind, or even remote access to your computer, STOP it is a scam.