Learn about fraud

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Fraud and identity theft is becoming increasingly common


of American consumers experienced identity theft in 2020.1


of forecasted losses to fraud in 2021.1


of American consumers experienced account takeovers in the past 2 years.1

Common approaches fraudsters take

False promises

Scammers lean into the power of persuasion in an attempt to fool you into giving up your personal info.

Text message scam

The promise of free gifts that are claimed by providing personal info via text are trouble. Your info is then sold to identity thieves or hackers, leading to unauthorized charges or use of your identity.

Contest scam

You may be told that you've won a prize for a contest or lottery you don’t remember entering, and then asked to provide personal info, send money, or attend a meeting in order to collect the prize. Remember, a legitimate prize won't ever require you to pay in order to receive it.

Advance fee scam

When you leave a deposit in anticipation of receiving a loan, an investment, or a gift of greater value, there's a chance you may receive little or nothing in return. Always vet the recipients carefully.

Overpayment scam

Beware of those who try to overpay for an item with a check or credit card and then request a refund for the overpaid amount. Their check will bounce or the card they're using may be stolen.

Pyramid scam

If your payout in any venture is contingent upon recruiting new participants, you may be getting involved in a pyramid scheme. The promise of a large profit in a short time is a big red flag.

Employment scam

Never pay for an employment opportunity that guarantees a profit. If you must send payment for supplies or computers first, it isn’t a legitimate job opportunity.

Too good to be true scam

Free products, items that are substantially below market price, get rich quick schemes, and anything that just seems to be too good to be true, more than likely, is.

Sense of urgency

If you get a request and are pressed to act fast, it could be a scam.

Tech support scam

Some people claim to be technical support affiliated with a reputable company. They warn that your computer may have a virus or other vulnerability. To resolve this issue, they try to access your computer remotely and request payment for unnecessary services.

Fake debt scam

Some fraudsters will represent themselves as a debt collector or court official and propose that you pay debt you don't actually owe to avoid “trouble”. Any communication about a case of this magnitude would come through certified mail.


This is when fraudsters disguise themselves and claim to be a reputable organization seeking info.

Phishing scam

Mail, text, phone calls, and/or copycat websites used to disguise oneself as a legitimate business are all phishing. Their goal is to get access to your personal info.

Government impersonation scam

Pretending to represent a government agency and calling or sending an email requesting personal info or a payment is a serious offense. Make sure to report it.

IRS/Social Security imposter scam

Be wary of inquiries claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or Social Security Administration (SSA). They may claim there's a problem with your account or that you owe money. In order to resolve this issue, they'll ask you to provide personal info and/or send payment.

Report IRS phishing to phishing@irs.gov

Emotional pleas

Don’t let fake requests for sympathy or family obligations persuade you to act.

Charity scam

Whether donating online or by phone, always verify the legitimacy of the organization. Someone claiming to be associated with a well-known fundraising effort (e.g., disaster relief) may be trying to scam you.

Family emergency scam

Watch out for someone who poses as a relative or friend asking for funds to help with an emergency—generally with a sense of urgency. Try to take a step back before moving forward in a situation like this.

Romance scam

Fake profiles on dating apps or social media that strike up a romantic interest may be trying to gain your confidence and trust. They then make up a story and ask for money. Don’t mistake that for the real thing.

How to be protected when you send money to a seller

When you send money with PayPal for things sold by someone you don’t know, like items posted to classifed sites like Craigslist, Letgo, and Facebook Marketplace, be sure to select Goods and Services as the payment type. That way, the transaction will be covered by PayPal protection programs in case the seller turns out to be a fraudster.2

Avoid sending money through the Friends and Family payment type, as it's not meant for exchanging money with strangers.

Learn more

Knowing about scams can help protect your identity and info.

Scams on classified sites

Dealing with strangers needs to be approached with caution every time. Let us help you protect yourself from a potential scam.

Read the article         

Common scams and how to spot them

There are many approaches scammers can take. Learning more about them can help you protect yourself.

Read about common scams         

Learn how to make your donation count

Donating to good causes is a great instinct. Make sure to vet the recipients first.

Read the article         

Our Help Center is always available

Find answers to commonly asked questions and get help with your PayPal account.

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1 The findings are from an online survey conducted in December 2020 of 8,653 U.S. consumers age 18 and older. U.S. Identity Theft: The Stark Reality, Aite Group, 2021.

2 Available on eligible purchases. Limits apply to Purchase Protection. Limits apply to Seller Protection.

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