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‘Look Out for PayPal Scam’ Warning Message

by Brett M. Christensen

Outline

Message that circulates via social media and online forums warns users to watch out for an email from PayPal that says that they have taken £35.50 to pay for a Skype account.

Brief Analysis

The message does describe one particular type of PayPal phishing scam and therefore the advice it contains is worth heeding. It should also be noted that PayPal is almost continually targeted by phishing scammers using a wide variety of phishing techniques.

Example

Look out for PayPal scam! U will get an email from pay pal saying they have taken £35.50 from your account to pay for your Skype account, there is a section at the bottom which say click on to dispute. If you click on this it brings up a fake pay pal page and asks you to put your email and password in, DON’T as this is how they get control of your account! Please share with all friends xxxx

 

Detailed Analysis

This warning message has been circulating via various social media channels as well as online forums and blogs since May 2013. The message warns users to look out for an email from PayPal that claims that £35.50 has been taken from the recipient’s PayPal account and used to pay a Skype bill.

The warning explains that clicking a link in the scam email opens a fake page designed to steal your username and password.
I am discussing this warning here because a number of people have contacted me to ask if the warning is valid.

In this case, yes, the warning is indeed valid and worth heeding.

Since at least 2011 scammers have been using and reusing a phishing technique that comprises scam emails that supposedly notify recipients that a Skype TopUp payment has been made via their PayPal account. Links in the scam emails open fake PayPal sites that entice users to enter their PayPal login details, and – in some cases – other personal and financial information.

It should be noted, however, that not all of the scam emails list a figure of £35.50. The supposed Skype payment amount and the designated currency vary in different incarnations of the scam. Other details in the scam emails may also vary, including the wording and the position of the scam links.

Furthermore, it should also be noted that this particular phishing technique is just one among dozens of phishing attacks that continually target PayPal users.  Another common ruse is quite similar to the Skype example discussed here but claims that the recipient’s account has been used to pay an ASDA order.

Many PayPal phishing scams claim that the user’s account will be suspended or blocked if an account is not updated. Other versions claimed that users must verify their accounts due to a possible security breach. Still others advise, that due to a security upgrade, users are obligated to confirm account details. All versions are designed to trick PayPal customers into divulging their login credentials and, often, their credit card details and identity information.

Because it conducts its business online and via email, PayPal is a primary target for phishing scammers. A quick rule of thumb. Genuine PayPal emails will always address you by your name, not via a generic greeting such as “Dear Customer”.

If you receive a suspected phishing scam email from PayPal you can submit it for analysis via the address listed on the PayPal website.

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer