November 22, 2023

PayPal scam texts: Spot red flags and avoid fraud

PayPal scam texts: Spot red flags and avoid fraud

Scam texts are responsible for billions of dollars in American consumer losses each year. Smishing attacks (or phishing attacks sent by SMS message) target virtually all phones, often posing as legitimate and trustworthy companies. As a major financial service and payment app, PayPal has become a popular mask for these types of scams. Fortunately, there are ways you can secure your privacy, identity, and financial security from text scammers pretending to be PayPal.

Can you get scammed on PayPal? Read ahead to learn about popular PayPal scam texts, red flags you should avoid, and steps you can take to protect yourself from phone fraud.

Common types of PayPal scam texts

Like all phishing scams, PayPal scam texts can have devastating consequences. Fortunately, learning about the more common types of scams can help you avoid their traps and protect yourself from fraud.

Fake payment requests

PayPal request scams often seem legitimate because many use the actual PayPal system. Scammers can create a real invoice using PayPal, which they can send via text message. In the invoice notice, they leave a phone number you can call if you don’t recognize the transaction. They want you to call the number expecting a real PayPal representative, so your guard will be down when you’re connected with the scammers. From there, they can solicit your account details and other personal information.

Never fulfill an invoice you don’t owe. If you receive a payment request for a product or service you didn’t order, contact PayPal at a verifiable phone number or email address and report the potential fraud attempt.

Order confirmations

Like PayPal money request scams, fake order confirmations try to get you to call and dispute a phony transaction. This type of scam text follows the same steps but creates slightly more urgency, as it pretends the order is complete and payment is already pending. Again, the scammer leaves a phone number to call for assistance, which really leads to scammers who try to steal your information.

If you’ve received a confirmation text for an order you never placed, the solution is the same as above: Contact PayPal to clarify the situation and report the attempted scam.

Verification scams

One popular type of text scam claims you must update your password due to suspicious activity or simply because it’s been some arbitrary period of time. The scammer sends a link where you can supposedly change your password and verify your account. Of course, the link is malicious and may download malware onto your device or direct you to a spoofed website that records your sensitive information.

If you’re ever concerned about your account status, log in through the official website using a separate browser window or access your account via the PayPal app. Do not click the link provided.

Account limitation scams

PayPal may freeze or limit accounts when they notice unauthorized use, too many sales disputes, or other suspicious or prohibited activity. In this text scam, the fraudster claims your account has been limited and outlines the steps to restore it, which include following a secretly malicious link to a spoofed website and giving away your information.

There are several reasons an account may actually be limited, but PayPal won’t notify you about an account limitation by text — only by email or within your account notifications.

Exceeded limit scams

Some PayPal scams claim you’ve received a payment that can’t be credited because the total would exceed your account limit. The scammer prompts you to upgrade your account so you can raise your limit and receive the payment, giving you a link to click or a phone number to call. If you click the link or call the number, any information you reveal will be given directly to the scammer.

PayPal does have transfer limits, and verifying your account can raise them. However, these limits are already relatively high ($4,000 per transaction for regular accounts), and they reset every day. It’s unlikely you’d receive an unexpected transfer that your account can’t handle.

Suspicious account activity alerts

Fraud alerts are popular premises for text message scams because they create a sense of urgency, and people act quickly when their finances are at risk. You may get a phony text claiming there’s been suspicious activity in your PayPal account, like access from unfamiliar locations or too many login attempts. The scammer behind the text prompts you to follow a link to change your password, but the fake website captures your account information.

PayPal does not send fraud alerts by text. If they notice suspicious account activity, they will notify you via email.

Special offers

Sometimes, PayPal extends special offers to its users, like a $3 reward to put toward another purchase after being away from the platform for a while. Scammers play off of this by making extravagant offers like $500 for referring a friend, taking a survey, or simply logging in to your account. As usual, the link to “claim your reward” will trigger a malware download, steal your information, or both.

PayPal only sends legitimate offers through email, not text message. Never trust offers that seem too good to be true.

Other channels

As rampant as PayPal scam texts are, they’re not the only form this type of scam can take. Scammers posing as PayPal may also target you with phishing emails, voice calls, or even website pop-ups. Always be alert, and don’t hesitate to contact PayPal through a legitimate medium to make sure the communications you get from them are legitimate.

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How to recognize red flags in a PayPal scam

PayPal scams aren’t always easy to spot right away. However, there are a few warning signs that can tip you off. Get to know the red flags below to help keep scammers at a distance.

Unsolicited messages

Always treat unexpected messages with a healthy dose of suspicion, even if the caller ID says it’s someone trustworthy. Scammers use caller ID spoofing to pose as legitimate businesses, but they contact you in ways the real business wouldn’t. Don’t respond to suspicious texts that claim to be from PayPal. Instead, call or email PayPal at a publicly listed number or address.

Urgency and pressure tactics

Scammers don’t want to give you enough time to figure out you’re being scammed, so they try to get you to act quickly. They may claim that delaying could leave you with a frozen account, increasing late fees, or missed opportunities for exclusive offers. Unlike real PayPal representatives, fraudsters may grow impatient or hostile if you question them.

Unexpected security codes

Two-factor authentication (2FA) helps protect your account by requiring a private code to complete the login process. If you receive a 2FA code but haven’t tried to log in, it likely means someone else is trying to access your account. A scammer posing as PayPal might even call or text you to ask for the code you were sent. Ignore the scammer, change your password, and notify PayPal about the scam attempt.

Requests for personal information

Scammers typically ask for personal information, but PayPal does not. PayPal will never ask for personal, financial, or account details by text or phone call. Unless you’re sure you know who you’re talking to and you’ve initiated contact, never give away information like your Social Security number, bank account details, or email address.

Non-PayPal practices

Recognizing a PayPal scam text is easier when you’re familiar with legitimate PayPal practices. PayPal may text users, but only from a short code. If you get a text from a 10-digit number claiming to be PayPal, you know it’s a scam. PayPal will also use first and last names when reaching out to users, not generic greetings like “Hi, PayPal user” or “Dear customer.” PayPal will not ask you to input your password anywhere but on the website or app’s login page.

Common disguises for scammers

PayPal is a popular disguise for phone scammers looking for information, but it’s not the only company fraudsters pose as. Think twice before answering a suspicious text message or call that claims to come from:

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What to do if you've fallen victim to a PayPal scam

If you’ve given information to a scammer, it’s critical to take action quickly. The longer you wait, the more time the scammer has to steal your data, spend your money, and lock you out of your account. Follow the steps below to minimize the damage.

  1. Change your login information. If you use the same email address or password elsewhere, change your login credentials for those accounts as well.
  2. Notify local law enforcement. Phone fraud is a serious crime that can lead to identity theft, so file a police report as soon as possible.
  3. Report the scam to PayPal. Report phone scams to PayPal so they can freeze your account and investigate the incident. Sometimes, PayPal refunds money if you’re scammed.
    • Forward suspicious emails and text messages to
    • Contact PayPal online
    • Call PayPal’s customer service line at 1 (888) 221-1161
  4. Contact the appropriate authorities.
    • Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
    • File a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
    • Forward scam and spam texts to 7726 (SPAM)
  5. Monitor your accounts for unauthorized transactions. Regularly check your bank and credit card statements to catch fraudulent purchases right away.

Monitor your accounts for unauthorized transactions. Regularly check your bank and credit card statements to catch fraudulent purchases right away.

How to protect your information

Keeping your private information private can be difficult, but there are simple ways you can reduce your scam risk.

  • Strengthen your account security. Use complex passwords, and never share login credentials or other personal information by phone call or text message.
  • Verify payment requests. Never fulfill an invoice, make a payment, or otherwise transfer money without first verifying the recipient.
  • Recognize phishing attempts. Stay up to date on common phone scams, watch out for red flags, and know how to avoid phishing schemes.
  • Never follow links in unexpected texts. Even if the URL looks legitimate at a glance, don’t click the link in an unsolicited text message.
  • Use a blocker app for scam calls and texts. Prevent spam calls and scam texts from reaching your phone with the help of a dedicated scam-blocking app.

Robokiller: Your trusted partner in scam protection

PayPal scam texts target your personal information, your financial accounts, and your identity, but you don’t have to become a victim. A comprehensive robocall blocking app like Robokiller prevents dangerous scam calls and texts from reaching your phone, so fraudsters never get the chance to trick you. Robokiller blocks 99% of unwanted scam calls and texts before they can do any damage.

Take back your peace of mind and protect your family from phone scams when you start your free 7-day Robokiller trial today.

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You’re one step away from a spam-free phone (and a little poetic justice, thanks to Answer Bots).
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