Identifying PayPal Scams and What You Should Do

As a college graduate, I finally decided to sell some of those textbooks that had been taking up precious shelf space within my house. I, promptly, posted them for sale on Within 24-hours, I had someone who bid $150 for an old management textbook.

Needless to say, I accepted this offer since the book was several editions behind.

After I accepted the offer, I received a message on eBay from the buyer. He said that he would be sending payment soon but said that he would feel more comfortable sending the payment to me over PayPal rather than sending the payment over eBay.

I thought that this was strange but, if it made them more comfortable, then okay.

They, then, asked for my email associated with my account. This is where I really felt that it could be a scam. So, I sent them a payment link rather than the email address. Still, this person requested my email address so that he could pay me "directly through PayPal." I did give this person my email address but would not provide further information.

The person asked me to include a $300 eBay gift card in the package upon shipping. Another huge red flag. Here are some real screenshots from the conversation.

They even told me where I could go to pick up the gift card. They did tell me that they would include the additional $300 for the gift card. At this point, the only optimism was if this person was including the gift card as a gift for their kid. Once I, very hesitantly, agreed, they said that they would notify me when payment was complete.

Keep in mind, I already knew this was a scam, but wanted to learn more about their game so I played along. THAT is why I agreed to send the gift card. I had no real intent of doing so.

After a few hours, I received a phone call and this text message.

Even though they told me to check my email for the payment, I went directly to the source. PayPal. Guess what I saw. Absolutely nothing. There was no payment to my account. I, then, told the person that I was not seeing payment in my account. The person kept insisting that payment was made and that I should check my email.

I finally checked my email. Here is what I saw.

The first thing I noticed was that it was $100 more than the agreed-upon payment. I thought, surely that's not a tip. Then, I noticed the $100 Shipping and Handling Fee. The actual shipping and handling fee for the product was $4.36.

There were, also, instructions as to if I did not see the money in my account.

They said that if I didn't see the money in my account, that I just had to send them a picture with the scratched off gift card and they would process the funds into my account. Yeah... OKAY. First of all, how would I provide them with gift card information that I was buying with THEIR money if it hadn't been transferred? Also, what does buying a gift card have to do with the transferring of funds into a PayPal account? Also, a fun fact about me is that I used to be a professional proofreader for a local newspaper. So, I noticed the fact that the email stated, "for verification so we can fully PROCESSED the funds into your account before shipment takes place." PROCESSED, not PROCESS. If you are going to scam people (don't), at least proofread your materials. Plus, the rest of the information provided was questionable as well.

Most people hate being scammed. While I do not enjoy being scammed, I do enjoy learning about the scams that are out there and how to avoid them. Or, worst -case, how to get out of them.

Now, I want to teach you what you should do to void PayPal scams.

Always Check Email Addresses.

This does not only apply to PayPal. I have avoided many scams by simply looking at the email address of the sender. An official email will almost always end in an @businessname email.

Trust Your Gut

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

Verify Through Your PayPal Account.

"If you receive an email that says that you've received a PayPal payment, take a moment to log in to your PayPal account before you ship any merchandise. Make sure that money has actually been transferred, and that it isn’t just a scam. Remember not to follow email links. The safest way to access your account is always to open a browser window, navigate to, and enter your login info." - PayPal

In this case, the scammer used the "You've been paid" approach.

Some fraudsters try to trick you into thinking that you've received a payment. They want what you're selling for free. Before you ship anything, log into your PayPal account and check that you were actually paid." - PayPal

How can you be sure the emails are really from PayPal and not some scammer? Here is what PayPal has to say.

An email from PayPal will:

  • Come from Scammers can easily fake the “friendly name,” but it’s more difficult to fake the full name. A sender like “PayPal Service (" is not a message from PayPal. But sophisticated scammers can sometimes fake the full name, so look for other clues.

  • Address you by your first and last names, or your business name.

An email from PayPal won't:

  • Ask you for sensitive information like your password, bank account, or credit card.

  • Contain any attachments or ask you to download or install any software.

The information provided above is relevant to my case that I experienced recently. While this was one scam, it is not all of them! For more information regarding other PayPal scams, please visit:

If suspect fraud or scams regarding your PayPal, you can always forward suspicious emails to

At the end of my conversation with the scammer, I stated that I was uncomfortable moving forward with the transaction and that I would be finding another buyer. Payment was not officially received and so, you have no legal obligation to complete the transaction. A.K.A., you can choose whether or not you want to sell the product to the buyer or if you would like to find someone else. This is important to know. If you ever feel uncomfortable in a situation, you can choose to get out of that situation.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can always send an email to for advice regarding your scam situations! We would love to help you in any way that we can.

When in doubt, you can always reach out to PayPal directly to verify any transactions through their site. They are there for you too.

Stay safe and stay smart!

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