Learn about scams

The difference between fraud and scams


Fraud is when someone gains unauthorized access to your account. For example, a fraudster gains access to your credit card information and makes purchases that you are not aware of and did not authorize.


Scams are when you authorize a payment but don't receive what you expect or don't receive anything at all. For example, you send money to a seller to pay for a laptop using the Friends and Family payment type, but you never receive the laptop.

Fraud and identity theft is becoming increasingly common

Common approaches fraudsters take

Sense of urgency and deception

If you get a request that asks you to act fast, it could be a scam. Scammers try to lure you into calling a phone number, sharing personal info, or installing malicious software.

Fake payment confirmation or request

Fraudsters may use PayPal to send you an invoice or money request that looks real so you’ll call them. If you don't recognize the requestor, ignore the request and don’t call any included phone numbers. Go to our Contact Page to connect with customer service. Please forward the email to phishing@paypal.com and then delete it.

Extortion scam

Be wary of scammers who threaten to abuse or expose your personal information if you don't pay them, often through crypto or Friends and Family money transfer. A fraudster will likely use a deadline to get you to act quickly. Block all contact with the fraudster and report to local authorities.

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 fake 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. Report PayPal phishing to phishing@paypal.com

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

Customer service impersonation

Pretending to represent customer service and requesting that you share personal info such as your password or 2-factor authentication code, send money as a “test” transaction, or download software is never legitimate. If a message asks you to contact PayPal customer service, go to the PayPal Help Center.

False promises

Scammers lean into the power of persuasion in an attempt to fool you into giving up your personal info. Beware of deceptive advertisements and social media posts linking to fraudulent offers.

Online shopping scam

Fraudsters set up fake online stores or apps, often advertised on genuine sites. They're usually selling popular items at very low prices. Be wary of items far below market price, these scammers will send you a counterfeit item or nothing at all and the fake site will disappear before you have a chance to act.

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.

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.


Avoid these scams when dealing with modern digital currency.

Theft of cryptocurrency funds

Secure your digital wallets to keep others from gaining access and stealing your crypto. Use wallets or generate keys only with trusted providers. If available, enable multi-factor authentication. When transferring crypto, double-check that the address you see on screen matches what you entered.

Employee impersonation scam

Scammers may contact you and pretend to be a customer support rep or offer free give-aways to persuade you to share account control or info. Don’t be fooled. Instead, contact the company through the phone number or form provided in their website.

Ponzi schemes

Carefully consider any crypto investment that seems too good to be true. Promises of high returns and minimal risk can mean you’re being misled. Beware of complex investment strategies and unlicensed advisors.

Pump and dump scams

Beware of fake recommendations for hyped crypto. Scammers will buy crypto and try to get you to buy it, too. Their plan is to artificially “pump up” the price so they can sell it before the price inevitably falls.

Fake websites and typosquatting

Don’t click through email or ad links because scammers use fake websites and apps to lure people to log in so they can steal their credentials. They’ll use colors or styles that are similar to authentic sites and apps, and often, the site address is similar, but misspelled.

Cryptojacking scam

Hackers will try to hijack the processing power of your device so they can illicitly mine crypto. They can gain access if you click on infected links, ads, or attachments. Run anti-virus scans and ad blockers. Monitor processing power consumption with a browser extension or software.

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. By selecting Goods and Services, your transaction can be covered by PayPal's Purchase Protection program in case the seller turns out to be a fraudster.2 There is no cost to you as the buyer when you use the Goods and Services payment type on PayPal. Be wary if the seller tries to convince you to use Friends and Family payment type, as this is a red flag that it is a scam.

Purchases made through the Friends and Family payment type will not be eligible for coverage through PayPal’s Purchase Protection program, so you may be unable to get your money back.

Learn more

Knowing about scams can help protect your identity and info.

Learn how to report suspicious email and text messages. Read more

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.

Common scams and how to spot them

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

Learn how to make your donation count

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

Our Help Center is always available

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