Thirteen signs of unusual account activity every business should be aware of.

Aug 21 2018 | PayPal editorial staff

Fraud can cost a business time and money - that’s why it pays to be vigilant of unusual account activity, where fraud could be lurking. 
If you see any of these 13 activities, immediately follow up and research if there’s been fraudulent activity.
1. Shipping Address is in a high-risk country or location that’s known for fraud.
See a list of countries in this article.
2. An order is larger than normal.
Be cautious if you receive an order from a new customer that’s larger than your average order size, especially if it’s for a product that’s in high demand, such as electronics.

3. You receive an unusually large number of orders during an unusual time of day.
For example, you receive 10 orders from U.S.-based customers, all around 3 a.m. on the same day.
4. You receive an unusually large number of international orders within a short period of time.
For example, you receive over 50 orders from customers outside the U.S. within a few days, when you normally receive only two international orders within a month.
5. An order consists of multiple requests for the same item.
For example, a customer orders 50 pairs of the same shoe in various sizes. Ask yourself if it makes sense for a customer to order several of the same product.

6. Several orders from different customers are shipped to the same address.
Fraudsters often steal credit cards from multiple people and ship the orders to a single address. 

7. The billing and shipping address don’t match.
Just because a customer ships the order to another address, it doesn’t automatically indicate fraud, but a legitimate customer is more likely to ship orders to their billing address. Look at all the order details to see if anything else appears unusual.
8. A customer asks you to change the shipping address after the order has been paid for.
Make sure their address change makes sense. Fraudsters originally enter valid addresses so your fraud systems don’t catch them. Then, they contact you to change the address. Also keep in mind that if you decide to ship to another address, the purchase will no longer qualify for PayPal Seller Protection.
9. You receive multiple credit cards for the same order.
Be cautious if the customer provides you with several different credit card numbers. The cards can be in the same name or different names. The fraudster may ask you to split up or create multiple transactions using the various cards. If you don’t already collect the credit card customer’s name, start requesting this information to help detect fraud.
10. A customer asks for rush or overnight shipping.
Fraudsters like to receive merchandise quickly, regardless of the cost.
11. The email address looks suspicious.
Look for email addresses that seem unusual, like knh$$, or undeliverable emails. Legitimate customers are more likely to use email addresses that contain their name.
12. A customer overpays you. 
If someone overpays you, don’t send the extra money back through a wire transfer, online banking transfer, or a pre-loaded money card. Overpayment scams are common. Instead, return the money through PayPal.

13. The shipping address looks suspicious. 
Before shipping an expensive order, make sure you know where the order is being shipped. Criminals may ship orders to freight forwarders, shipping companies, P.O. boxes, or vacant properties so they can remain anonymous. 

You can also access additional information on protecting your business 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.

When you are fully approved for PayPal powered by Braintree you are provided with a basic set of fraud filters to help combat fraud on your account. PayPal and other fraud management vendors can provide more filters to help you take control of your business.

Here's how to enable fraud filters on your PayPal powered by Braintree Control Panel.
  1. Log in to your Control Panel.
  2. Click on the gear icon in the upper right corner.
  3. Select Processing.
  4. Click Options next to AVS and CVV to edit basic credit card fraud tools.
Postal Code does not match (when provided) (N)
Postal Code not provided (I)

Note that AVS rules only check the numeric values of an address. We generally don't recommend enabling Street Address Verification. For example if a customer lives at 12345 6th street, depending on how they enter the information it could confuse the system and cause false rejections.

CVV does not match (when provided) (N)
CVV not provided (I)

For more information on preventing fraud please see click below to download the "Fraud Prevention Checklist"
Download the Fraud Prevention Checklist (185Kb)

If you have more questions, please contact us at

You can use Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express cards that have a registered billing address to make PayPal payments.

Another fast and easy option is paying with your bank account. Many PayPal members choose to pay with their bank accounts because it’s a convenient way to keep their spending under control.

However you choose to pay, we’ll send you a receipt every time a payment is made from your account so that you can keep track of your transactions. And we look out for you. We’ll let you know if we notice any unusual account activity.

If your payment is on hold or not available right away, we’ll notify you via email or an alert on your Summary page.

Delaying funds availability is a common industry practice we implement to help ensure the secure use of PayPal by both buyers and sellers. By placing your payment on hold, we’re trying to make sure that there’s enough money in your PayPal account to resolve any issues that may arise with your account such as chargebacks or disputes. When subject to a hold, the money is temporarily not available to use.

If there aren’t any issues with your transaction or account, the payment will typically be released within 21 days after receipt. After your hold is released, it may take until midnight (but it's usually sooner) for the money to appear in your PayPal account.

Here are some reasons your funds may be temporarily on hold or unavailable:

1. You’re a new seller with PayPal or you’re an established seller but have opened a new account.
When you’re a new PayPal seller, it takes time to build up enough history to demonstrate a pattern of positive buyer-seller transactions. The good news is you can usually move out of this status by confirming your identity and building up a history of positive selling activity.
If you’re an established PayPal seller, but opened a new account, that account will be eligible for holds until a good history is established.

2. You haven’t sold in a while.
When your selling activity has been dormant for a long time, it will also take time to rebuild a history of positive buyer-seller transactions.

3. Multiple customers filed for a refund, dispute, or chargeback.
If multiple customers file for a refund, dispute, or chargeback, or if you receive a large number of refunds, disputes or chargebacks in a short period of time, it can delay the availability of your funds. The best way to resolve this is to work directly with your customers to prevent, or solve, disputes and chargebacks.
Sometimes it’s possible that your customer filed for a refund, dispute, or chargeback because someone illegally used their PayPal account to buy something. We ask that you hold off on shipping any items when this happens.

4. Your selling pattern appears unusual or has changed.
Unusual sales activity includes: an increase in sales or a change in average selling price, business platform, or type of item being sold.

5. You’re selling higher risk items.
Higher risk items can include tickets, gift cards, consumer electronics, computers, and travel packages.

How do I get my money sooner for a transaction on hold? provides information on how you may be able to get your funds released early.
Why is my payment from a sale on eBay on hold? provides information on eBay holds and how to contact eBay.
If you are getting an error message when trying to transfer money to your bank, it could be because: If the transfer to your bank account still doesn’t go through, try: