Fake PayPal emails lead to nearly £8 million in losses this year

Action Fraud is warning people selling items online to be on the lookout for criminals sending fake PayPal emails.

Criminals have been targeting people selling items online, by sending them emails purporting to be from PayPal. The emails trick victims into believing they have received payment for the items they’re selling on the platform.

Typically, after receiving these emails, victims will then send the item to the criminal. This leaves them at a further disadvantage having not received any payment for the item and also no longer being in possession of it.

Action Fraud issued a similar warning earlier this year, after it received 3,059 crime reports about fake PayPal emails between October 2019 and December 2019. Victims reported losing a total of £1,121,446 during this time. Reports of fake PayPal emails to Action Fraud made up almost 18% of all reports of online shopping and auction fraud during this period.

In one instance, a victim received a fake email purporting to be from PayPal claiming the buyer 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 loaded which they dutifully did.

In another case, the fake email from PayPal 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.

What you need to do?
  • Sellers beware: If you’re selling items on an online marketplace, be aware of the warning signs that your buyer is a scammer. Scammers may have negative feedback history, or may have recently set up a new account to avoid getting poor feedback. Don’t be persuaded into sending anything until you can verify you’ve received the payment.
  • Scam messages: Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial details.

If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud or cyber crime, report it to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

A spokesperson for 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.”

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