Are you an online shopper who uses PayPal as a safe way to pay for things you buy on the internet? If so, you probably feel safer from scams when you use PayPal - after all, you don't have to give out your sensitive information to all the vendors you deal with - the only party that gets your personal information is PayPal.
It's good that you're protecting yourself from fraud and scams by using PayPal, but even if you are a PayPal user, you are not completely safe from internet scams. PayPal users are actually the specific targets of an email scam going around commonly called the PayPal Scam.
Scammer behind the PayPal scam send PayPal users an official-looking email asking them to verify their account or identity. The email is addressed "Dear PayPal User" and the email contains official-looking PayPal content like the PayPal logo, graphics, and page format. The fraudulent purpose of the email varies - the scammer may say that PayPal is trying to detect unused accounts and email addresses, that PayPal has been encountering problems with their software and needs to switch operating systems, that PayPal's files have been lost or corrupted, or a number of other excuses for the email. However, one thing is common about the content of the fraudulent email: it is directing PayPal users to verify their identities using their personal and credit information. There is sometimes a form provided for this purpose right in the email; other times there is a link directing the recipient of the email to another site where they are to enter their information.
If you get an email like this, do NOT do what it says - even if the email looks official, and even if the email directs you to an official-looking site. Whatever the claim of the email, its sole purpose is really to get your personal and financial information so that the scammers behind the email can cheat you out of money. This is fraud and it is illegal. Once the scammers get hold of your information, you are an easy target for identity theft.
Clues It's A Scam
So how do you know that the email you got from "PayPal" is a scam? Here are a few clues:
- The greeting is not personalized - the real PayPal will always use your name or the name associated with your account in its greeting, never "Dear PayPal User."
- If you look at the email source it won't come directly from PayPal and it may have a reply to address that is not at "paypal.com"
- The email asks for things PayPal doesn't need to verify your identity - PayPal would not ask for information they don't need (like your bank pin number)
- There is a form included in the email asking for your sensitive information - PayPal does not ask for personal information over email
- Links in the email send you to a site that does not contain "paypal.com" in the address bar or it's not a secure site ("https://" in the address rather than "http://")
Any of these clues mean that the email is from a scammer, and not PayPal. Therefore do not do what the email asks.
What To Do If You Receive the PayPal Scam Email
If you receive an email that you think is a scam claiming to be from PayPal, forward the email (including its header information) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, do not enter any of your personal information in any forms provided in the email, or in any links sent to you in the email. Do not reply to the email.
Instead, if you would like to check up on your account, log into your PayPal account the way you normally would - through the PayPal login page on their official website. If there are any problems with your account, you will be notified via your online account. If there is no notice, you know for sure the email was a fake.