The 8 common e-commerce scams to avoid.

Jan 03 2019 | Alice Wong, Small business - North Americas, PayPal

Criminals are persistent, but you can avoid falling for scams by taking some proactive steps and knowing what to watch out for. Be aware of these most common e-commerce scams.
1. Shipping service scam.
The buyer asks you to use a specific shipping service. They may claim they can get a discount, or that they have a preferred vendor that is more reliable. In reality, they can easily contact the shipping company and reroute the order to another address.

How to avoid a shipping service scam: Use only your shipping account, review the order for other fraudulent red flags, and ship to the address on the Transaction Details page in your PayPal Business account.

2. Prepaid label scam.
The buyer asks you to use a pre-paid shipping label provided by them, but the shipping labels could’ve been purchased with a stolen credit card. Or, they may be attempting to send the package to another country, PO Box, or untraceable location.

How to avoid a prepaid label scam: Don’t accept shipping labels and only ship to the address on the Transaction Details page. This also helps ensure that you remain covered under the PayPal Seller Protection policy on eligible transactions.

3. Package rerouting scam.
The buyer provides an incorrect or fake shipping address and, when the package cannot be delivered, contacts the shipping company directly to reroute the package to a new location. Then, they file a complaint saying they never received the package and because it was rerouted, and the seller can’t prove the item was delivered.

How to avoid a package rerouting scam: Work with your shipping company to block buyers from rerouting, and also validate a buyer’s address before shipping.

4. Overpayment scam.
A customer attempts to overpay for an item or an order and asks you to wire them the difference. They may be using a stolen credit card or account to pay you, and if the legitimate account holder reports unauthorized activity, that money can be withdrawn from your account.

How to avoid an overpayment scam: Never wire money to someone you don’t know and if a customer overpays, consider canceling the order, as it’s likely to be fraudulent.

5. Employment scam.
This happens when someone contacts you to be their employee or partner. They ask you to sell products on eBay or a website, pay their supplier, and update your PayPal account address to their address. They can then conduct fraudulent transactions and you may be liable.

How to avoid an employment scam: Never list someone else’s address and never send money to someone you don’t know. You should also verify all of your suppliers.

6. Employee theft from a PayPal account.
In some cases, you might give your employees access to your PayPal Business account so they can do their job. Unfortunately, this opens you up to fraud risk. An employee might transfer money to their account, their friend's accounts, or to an offshore account. When you ask where the money went, they may tell you it was for a customer refund, used to pay a supplier or used for payroll.

How to avoid an employee theft scam:
  • Always conduct background checks on potential employees and review current employees’ account activity on your PayPal Business account regularly.
  • If you need an employee to manage your finances, make sure no one person has control over your account. When it comes to your finances, you should have checks and balances in place.
  • Only give employees access to the information they need to do their job.
    • Use PayPal's manage users functionality to set up employee privileges.
    • You can decide how much access to give each of your employees.

7. Return policy abuse.
You sold something and the buyer files a complaint with PayPal stating the product was damaged, you sent the wrong order, or the product was broken. When this happens, PayPal will ask the buyer to send the product back to you. The buyer may be telling the truth — packages get damaged in shipment from time to time. But if you notice that an item the buyer said was broken is in perfect condition or the buyer used the item before sending it back, they might be trying to take advantage of you. Maybe they found it for less somewhere else or they’re trying to avoid your return policy.

How to avoid return abuse:
  • Always pack items securely to prevent damage.
  • Communicate with your customers. Inform them of any flaws up front and provide product pictures so customers know exactly what they're buying. If you’re selling a technical product, send installation instructions so the buyer can use the product.
  • Provide a customer-friendly return policy so the buyer doesn't feel like they need to make up a reason for returning the order.
  • If you sold something on eBay and feel your buyer is misusing the returns process, report it. If you sold something on your own website and feel the buyer is misusing the return process, you can appeal your claim by contacting your payments company.
  • Create a list of customers you don't want to do business with again. The list should include information such as name, address, email and phone.
    • If you have your own website, the list could also include IP addresses, computer or device IDs and credit card information.
    • Monitor new orders against your negative list.
    • If you're a smaller business, you can create a negative list using Excel or a Macro.
    • If you're a larger business, you can use a third-party rules system or develop your own in-house solution.

8. Affiliate scams.
If you use affiliate marketers to help increase your sales, there are some additional things to be aware of. As a refresher, here’s how it works:
  • Affiliate marketers are paid based on their performance.
  • Each time the affiliate refers a customer to your website, and it results in a sale for your business, the affiliate gets a commission.
  • You may notice that one affiliate is generating higher sales than your other affiliates.
Fraudulent affiliates take advantage of your revenue-share program by placing orders using stolen credit cards, then:
  • Since you didn't realize the orders were fraudulent, you paid the affiliate.
  • Months later you realize the affiliate was a fraudster because your customers filed complaints that their credit or debit cards were stolen.
  • As a result of this scam, you may incur losses like affiliate fees, cost of your product, shipping fees, transaction fees, chargeback fees, and your time.

How to avoid affiliate scams:
  • If you offer an affiliate program, make sure you know who your partners are.
  • If you're partnering with a third party that refers affiliates, understand how the third party verifies and approves their affiliates.
  • Pay affiliates 60 or 90 days after the order date so that if there is a chargeback or customer complaint, you notice it before the affiliate has gotten away with that money.
  • Watch for spikes in sales on products that come with higher affiliate payouts.
You can also access additional information about fraud and online security by reviewing our FAQs at the bottom of this page.

The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.

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Frequently asked questions.

Fraud Protection is an integrated risk management solution that uses PayPal intelligence and advanced machine learning to help you fight fraud. It allows you to customize fraud filters based on your unique tolerance for risk and business needs, helping you to better balance chargebacks and declines.

To launch Fraud Protection, go to your App Center, then All Apps on the left.

The tool includes:

  • Dashboard: visually displays high-level information about payments, revenue, and chargebacks for a selected time period.
  • Filters: displays a list of filters along with their conditions that can be used to help approve or reject incoming payments. Changes made to filters can be tested on your historical transaction data to help you understand the impact of those changes before activating them.

What are Fraud Protection filters?

Filters are used to automatically stop fraudulent purchases and approve genuine ones. Transactions are evaluated against filters and get declined if any of the filter conditions are satisfied. A set of customized filters are provided to you out-of-the-box and are tailored for your business by considering various attributes, such as business category, average payment volume, and past chargebacks. 

What filters do I get with Fraud Protection?

How do I enable/disable Fraud Protection filters?

  1. Click Filters.
  2. In the Enable column, click the toggle against the filter you want to enable or disable.
  3. Click Test to test the performance after updating the selected filter.
  4. Click Save if you want to keep the changes.

How do I edit Fraud Protection filters?

  1. Click Filters.
  2. Click Edit next to the filter you want to update.
  3. Enter values into the available boxes.
  4. Click Test to test the performance after updating the selected filter.
  5. Click Save if you want to keep the changes.

What are filter recommendations and how do I apply them?

Behind the scenes, Fraud Protection constantly learns from payments across the PayPal network and provides recommendations to filters aiming to maximize your revenue. The initial set of recommendations will take at least 45 days after you’re onboarded to appear.  

  1. In the Recommendations panel, click View.
  2. Select the checkboxes for the filters you wish to update.
  3. Click Apply.
  4. Click Test to view your simulated Approvals/Rejections.
  5. Click Save to update your filters for future payments.

When reviewing the recommendations and selecting the checkboxes, you can click the dropdown arrow to view the Performance Forecast. This gives you an idea of how it will improve your fraud decisioning performance. 

You can also click Recommended Filter Update next to each Individual filter if you want to review each one separately. 
How does the filter testing feature work?

Your historical transactions are used to test filters based on the time period you select in the Time Filter. This is available on the Filters page in the upper right-hand corner. 
The filter testing feature helps to simulate filter changes over your past transactions. This doesn’t guarantee future performance of your transactions. However, because these changes apply to live transactions within 5 minutes of saving, you are required to test any changes before saving. 
Can I add my own filters?

The filter set provided is based on your business metrics. They’re best suited to your transactions and we don’t provide the option to create new filters as that might lead to more declines. 
What if I have a genuine transaction declined by Fraud Protection?

You are unable to approve a transaction that has already been declined. If you think that a similar transaction could be rejected by Fraud Protection, you may change the filter settings or even switch off the filter that you believe resulted in the rejection of that transaction. Remember to switch the filter back on once the transaction is complete.
What happens if I receive a dispute or chargeback that was approved by Fraud Protection?

Fraud Protection serves as an added layer of security to decline transactions that can result in potential chargebacks. If you receive a chargeback on an approved transaction, it will fall under your PayPal Terms and Conditions. PayPal is not liable for any chargebacks even after Fraud Protection is enabled. 
How do I disable Fraud Protection if I no longer want to use it?

  1. Click the Gear icon within Fraud Protection.
  2. Click Disable Fraud Protection.

It’s extremely important to report any suspected instances of fraud. If you think your account has been compromised change your password and update your security questions right away to protect your account (we may limit what you can do on your account until you do so).

Here are some types of fraudulent activity. Please follow the steps we’ve included below to report them:

  • Unauthorized activity on your PayPal account
  • Unauthorized transactions on your PayPal Debit Mastercard®
  • Fake PayPal emails or spoof websites
  • Items not received or a potential fraudulent seller

Unauthorized activity on your PayPal account

If you've received an email notification that something has been changed on your account, but you don't remember changing it, please change your password and security questions. Next, you can update any changed information, such as your email address, address, phone number, or other profile information.

If you notice a transaction that you didn’t authorize on your PayPal, bank or credit card statement, let us know right away through our Resolution Center. Some charges may appear unfamiliar but are legitimate and authorized, learn more.

  1. Go to the Resolution Center at the bottom of the page.
  2. Click Report a Problem.
  3. Select the transaction you want to dispute, and click Continue.
  4. Select “I want to report unauthorized activity.”
  5. Click Continue.
  6. Follow the instructions to finish opening your dispute.

If you can't log in to your PayPal account, follow the steps to reset your password.

Unauthorized transactions on your PayPal Debit Mastercard

If the unauthorized transaction involves your PayPal Debit Mastercard:

  1. Go to the Resolution Center at the bottom of the page.
  2. Click Report a Problem.
  3. Select the transaction you want to dispute, and click Continue.
  4. Select “I want to report unauthorized activity.”
  5. Click Continue.
  6. Follow the instructions to finish opening your dispute.

Remember, you’re 100% protected against unauthorized transactions sent from your account.

Here's how to report your PayPal Business Debit Card lost or stolen.

  1. Click PayPal debit card under your PayPal balance.
  2. Click the card you want to report lost or stolen under "Manage my cards."
  3. Click Report this card lost or stolen card.
  4. Click Deactivate Now.

Fake PayPal emails or spoof websites

If your account is limited, we'll send you an email with the reason for the limitation. For your convenience, we always list the steps to remove the limitation in the Resolution Center under Steps to Remove Limitation.

If you received an email stating that your account is limited but don't see any steps in the Resolution Center, you may have received a fake email. Forward it to and we’ll investigate it for you. After you send us the email, delete it from your inbox. If you clicked on any links or downloaded any attachments within the suspicious email or website, log in to your account and view your transactions. It’s also a good idea to change your password..

Here's more information on how to spot and report suspicious communication, and keep your account safe.

Items not received or a potential fraudulent seller

If you sent a payment but haven’t received what you paid for, or believe the seller to be fraudulent, you should visit our Resolution Center. We’ve developed several programs to help protect you, and opening a dispute is the first step to help get your problem resolved. Here’s how:

  1. Go to the Resolution Center.
  2. Click Report a Problem.
  3. Select the transaction you want to dispute.
  4. Click Continue.
  5. Select either I didn't receive an item I purchased or the item I received was significantly not as described or I want to report unauthorized activity, depending on the nature of your dispute.
  6. Click Continue.
  7. Follow the instructions to file your dispute.

Here are some popular scams you should avoid.

PayPal lets you quickly and securely send and receive money for goods, services and more.

With PayPal you can:

  • Shop online in more than 200 countries and regions.
  • Send money securely to friends and family around the world.
  • Checkout quickly at hundreds of your favorite online stores.
  • Accept credit cards on your website.
  • Make donations to your favorite charity.
  • Set up an online shop and receive payments.
  • Use your credit card and earn rewards.

At PayPal, your financial security is our highest priority. We use the latest anti-fraud technology to help make sure your transactions are safer and you’re 100% protected against unauthorized payments sent from your account.

Chargeback Protection is an opt-in risk product that helps eligible merchants reduce the risk of fraudulent credit or debit card transactions. We’ll help protect your Advanced Credit and Debit Card transactions from or “item not received” chargebacks, and once you submit the info we need, we’ll waive the chargeback fee and remove the hold on the reported amount. Read the Terms and Conditions for Chargeback Protection.

This feature is only available for business accounts with Advanced Credit and Debit Card checkout.

Which merchants are eligible for Chargeback Protection?
To be eligible for Chargeback Protection, a merchant must have a PayPal business account and have enabled Advanced Credit and Debit Card checkout.

How can a merchant apply for Chargeback Protection?
Merchants can apply for Chargeback Protection from within their PayPal account. Simply click on 'Manage Risk and Fraud' in the Payment Preferences section within Account Settings and select Chargeback Protection. Terms apply.

How does Chargeback Protection work?
We’ll help provide risk decision-making on all your Advanced Credit and Debit Card transactions and decline potentially fraudulent payments. If an approved transaction is later identified as fraudulent, it will be chargeback-protected once the info we need is submitted.

  1. We’ll monitor Advanced Credit and Debit Card checkout transactions
  2. We’ll review those transactions for risk of fraud
  3. We’ll waive any chargeback fees and remove the hold on the reported amount if a transaction is later found to be “unauthorized” or “item not received” upon our review of the info requested from you.

How does a merchant end Chargeback Protection?
You can end Chargeback Protection anytime. There are no yearly caps on ​losses, no fixed duration,​ revenue requirements, or cancellation fees. Merchants simply need to click on “Manage Risk and Fraud” in the Payment Preferences section within Account Settings and select “No protections right now."

How much does Chargeback Protection cost? 

Chargeback Protection0.40% per approved transaction

*Fees are subject to change.
What info must a merchant provide in connection with an eligible chargeback case?
If a chargeback occurs, merchants must submit proof of shipment /delivery as requested by the Resolution Center to qualify for Chargeback Protection.
What types of transactions are eligible for Chargeback Protection?
Chargeback Protection applies to PayPal Commerce Platforms Advanced Credit and Debit Cards (ACDC) checkout. Exclusions apply.

What types of chargebacks are eligible under Chargeback Protection?
Chargeback Protection is only offered for “unauthorized” and “item not received” chargebacks. You must still respond to these chargeback cases in the PayPal Resolution Center to get the benefits of Chargeback Protection.

What types of chargebacks are not eligible under Chargeback Protection?
All chargebacks other than “unauthorized” and “item not received”, such as “broken item”, “significantly not as described,” “refund not processed”, and “duplicate charge”, are not eligible for Chargeback Protection. You’re expected to respond as usual to these chargeback cases in the PayPal Resolution Center.

What are the differences between Chargeback Protection and Fraud Protection?  

Chargeback Protection Fraud Protection 
Chargeback Protection is a built-in, risk decisioning tool available to eligible PayPal merchants for a fee.Fraud Protection* is a built-in, fraud analysis tool provided to ACDC PayPal merchants at no rate.
PayPal uses risk models and analysis in real-time to accept or reject transactions based on their risk level.   Merchants set risk rules and filters within the Fraud Protection tool, determining which orders to accept or reject.
PayPal will waive any chargeback fees and will release the reported amount to the merchant for any “unauthorized” or “item not received” chargebacks that may later occur upon receipt of the requested information from the merchant.Merchants carry the liability for any chargebacks that may occur when using Fraud Protection. 

*When you sign up for Chargeback Protection, we’ll automatically disable Fraud Protection on your account. You’ll no longer have access to the Fraud Protection dashboard if you are enrolled in Chargeback Protection.


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