UK Markets closed

£8m losses reported due to fake PayPal emails

Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent
·4-min read

Online sellers are being warned to watch out for fake PayPal emails, with nearly £8 million of losses reported to Action Fraud so far this year.

Between January and September, 21,349 crime reports were made to Action Fraud about fake PayPal emails.

Victims reported losing a total of £7,891,077, with those targeted including people selling jewellery, furniture and electronics.

Action Fraud said criminals have been targeting people selling items online by sending them emails purporting to be from PayPal, which trick victims into believing they have received payment for their items.

Victims are tricked into sending the item to the criminal, and end up without the money or the item.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “We know that criminals will go to great lengths to target people on online marketplaces, especially now many more people are selling items online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Criminals have taken advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to commit fraud and will continue to do so. We are working hard, together with our partners, such as PayPal, to raise awareness of the types of scams being committed and prevent people from falling victim.

“It’s really important to follow our advice to help protect yourself. If you receive a suspicious email claiming you’ve received payment for an item you’re selling, take five minutes to check directly with PayPal that the communication is genuine. If something feels wrong then always question it.”

In one case seen by Action Fraud, a seller received an email purporting to be from PayPal claiming the buyer had accidently paid more than they should have. The buyer then asked the victim to pay the difference by sending a gift card to them with the difference, which they did.

In another case, a fake email claimed the buyer had accidently paid for the item twice. The buyer then asked the seller to wire the overpayment to a bank account in a different country.

Action Fraud said scammers sometimes open new accounts to avoid poor feedback showing up which could sound alarm bells.

It said people should not click on links or attachments in suspect emails, or respond to messages asking for personal or financial details.

A statement from PayPal said: “At PayPal we go to great lengths to protect our customers in the UK, but there are still a few simple precautions we should all take to avoid falling victim to scams.

“All communications from PayPal to account holders would be sent to the secure message centre within their PayPal account. You will have a secure message waiting if PayPal does need you to take any action.

“A genuine PayPal email will only ever address you by your full name – anything that starts differently should immediately raise your suspicions. Look out for spelling mistakes, which are a common tell-tale sign of a fraudulent message.”

PayPal offers these tips:

– Log into PayPal. If you receive a suspect email, do not act on the message or click on any links. Instead, open your browser, log into PayPal and check for any new activity. PayPal will email or notify you in the app if you have received any payments.

– Check the basics. Look out for misspellings and grammatical errors, which can be a tell-tale sign.

– Verify an email’s authenticity. Phishing scams will often mimic the look and feel of PayPal emails, and ask you for sensitive information – something that real PayPal emails will never do.

– Spot the difference. A PayPal email will address you by your first and last name, or your business name, and it will never ask you for your full password, bank account or credit card details.

– Avoid following links. If you receive an email you think is suspicious, do not click on any links or download any attachments. You can check where a link is going before you click on it by hovering over it to see if it appears legitimate.

– Restrict your information. Limit the number of places where you store your payment information online. If you are making a purchase online, you could consider using a protected payment method such as PayPal, so if your purchase does not arrive or match the product description, PayPal can reimburse you.

– If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Suspect PayPal emails can be forwarded to spoof@paypal.com, without changing the subject line.