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First Hand Experience: A Lesson in PayPal Fraud

Posted on August 6, 2009 by Archives

PayPal a Force to be Reckoned With

With the rapid growth of online sales, there has also been a rapid growth in the number of people using PayPal. In fact Monday’s outage was a huge testament to the role that PayPal now plays in eCommerce.  Considering that sources like CNet revealed “The outage could be costly for those who rely on PayPal to handle e-commerce transactions. PayPal says about $2,000 in payments per second flows through the system, meaning that a one-hour outage would cut out about $7.2 million in commerce.” PayPal provides customers a safe and secure way to check out online.  PayPal allows customers to not only pay for items they purchase, but it allows users to transfer money between other PayPal users. PayPal accounts can be funded with an electronic debit from a bank account or by a credit card.

To access a PayPal account you need to have the username and password of the account. The username of a PayPal account is the main email address (primary email address) used to register the account. The owner of the account would also set up a password to be used along with the username to access the account. The security system is quite secure as long as the username and password of the PayPal account are known only to the actual owner of the account. If these details are available to anyone else it would mean that the security of that PayPal account could be compromised. Anyone acquiring the username and password of any PayPal account can access and perform all functions that the actual owner of the account could do. Although PayPal has a security key, PayPal identity scams have become more frequent. 


Account Exposed

I personally had an experience in which I had an eBay account and a PayPal account which was compromised. Someone sold fraudulent items under my eBay account (items they never intended to ship), linking my PayPal account to the sales.  They then collected the funds by transferring them from my account to theirs. When the eBay buyer realized their money was taken and no product was delivered, they started a claim with PayPal and in return the money was deducted out of my account!  I ended up not being liable after we fought the claims and PayPal did an investigation, but the accounts had to be closed and were no longer usable and it was a big hassle and I didn’t even realize that this was all going on until I saw debits coming out of our checking account.

There are a few ways that your PayPal account can be compromised. Being careless with your information is an obvious way for your account to be compromised. Writing down your information on paper or choosing a simple password, is another way. A common way the fraudster can get your PayPal information is by sending an email to the account owner notifying them of certain activity in their PayPal account. For these PayPal email scams to work, the receiver of the email is instructed to login to his or her PayPal account by clicking a link in the email. Once the user clicks the link in the email, he is taken to a web page that closely resembles a regular PayPal login page. This page is in fact a fake and is hosted by the fraudster (not PayPal) with the sole purpose of collecting confidential login details from the actual owner of the PayPal account.  These are referred to as fishing scams.


Account Protection

To avoid these types of PayPal fraud scams there are a few things you can do. One is to never use a simple password such as your first or last name, strong passwords should consist of a capital letter, a lowercase letter a number and a symbol if the service will allow all of the characters mentioned above to be used in the password. Two, never click links on emails to access your PayPal account. Also, type in the complete name of the PayPal website to the requested login, what you will see is that the URL is often a letter or two off or a play on words, for example Three, login to your account periodically and look for any strange or unexpected transactions.

The suggestions above will help you keep your PayPal account safe, while lowering the risk of your account being compromised.


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