How to recognize fake or phishing emails

You may receive an email that looks like the emails you receive from PayPal. Sending fake emails is called "Phishing," because the sender is attempting to collect your personal information. The aim is to trick you into disclosing personal, financial or account information. Phishing emails may ask you to visit a fake website or to call a fake customer service number. Phishing emails may also include attachments that will install malware on your computer when you open them.

Please keep in mind that receiving a fake email does not mean that your account has been compromised. If you think an email may be harmful, do not open it. Do not reply to the email, do not click on any of the links and do not download any of the attachments. If you have already clicked on one of the links or if you have any doubts, log in to your PayPal account and verify your recent activity to make sure everything is OK.

It is also important to notify PayPal of any fake emails or websites as soon as possible. That way, we can help protect you, as well as other PayPal members. Forward any suspicious email to spoof@paypal.com, then delete the suspicious email.

If you are unsure about an email claiming to be from PayPal, here are a few tips to help you recognize fake emails:

Fake emails will use generic greetings such as "Dear user" or "Dear [your email address]."
Emails sent by PayPal will always start with your first name and last name, or the name of your business. We never use generic greetings like "Dear user" or "Hello, PayPal member."

Emails asking you to click on links that direct you to a fake website.
If there is a link in the email, always check it before clicking on it. A link may appear perfectly safe, for example www.paypal.com/SpecialOffers. Hover your mouse over the link to see what it really links to. If you are unsure, do not click on the link. You could potentially infect your computer by visiting a fake website.

Emails containing unknown attachments.
Never open an attachment unless you are sure that it is legitimate and safe. Be especially careful with invoices from unknown businesses or entrepreneurs. Some attachments contain viruses that will be installed on your computer when you open them.

Emails that convey a false sense of urgency.
Phishing emails often use alarmist language and warn you that your account must be updated immediately. They aim to create a sense of urgency so that the recipient will not take the necessary precautions.


Here are some common examples of hoaxes using fake emails. In case of doubt, always log in to your PayPal account and go to the Resolution Center to see if you have any notifications.

"Your PayPal account is about to be suspended."
Many scammers send emails indicating that an account is about to be suspended and that the owner of the account must enter their password on a (fake) web page. We will never ask you to enter your password unless you are on the login page. Report any suspicious email by forwarding them to spoof@paypal.com.


"You've received a payment."
Some fraudsters try to trick you in to thinking that you've received a payment for an order. They want what you're selling for free. Before you ship anything, log in to your PayPal account and check that you were actually paid. We'll never ask you to provide a tracking number by email. If you’ve been paid, you’ll always see the payment in your PayPal account.​

"You have received an excess payment."
Scammers may try and convince you that you have been paid more than what you were owed. For example, a fake email may claim that you have been paid $500 for a camera that you are selling for $300. The scammer will ask you to send the camera and the additional $200 that you supposedly "received in excess." The scammer wants your camera AND the money, but has in fact not paid you anything.
Simply log in to your PayPal account and verify that you have received the payment before sending anything.

If you receive an email that appears to be from PayPal claiming that you have received money, make sure the email is not a fake one. Clues:

The email does not mention your first or last name.

The email indicates that the funds are "on hold" and that you need to take action (For example: send money via Western Union or click on a link to enter a tracking number). You can easily see if you have received any money by logging in to your PayPal account (do not click on any links in the email). If you have been paid, you will see the payment in your account.