The PayPal Scam
Date Added: Sept. 30, 2003
If it looks like a scam and feels like a scam, it's probably a scam.
SUBJECT: Please update informarion on your PayPal account
Dear PayPal user!
At 09.27.2003 our company has lost a number of accounts in the system during the database maintenance. If you have an active account, please click on the link below to update your credit card information. If you have problems with your account, please let us know at email firstname.lastname@example.org
While the above note is dated September 2003, much older versions have popped up. This is now a very common scam, called "phishing" that uses a type of "social engineering" to dupe unsuspecting netizens into giving crooks valuable information about themselves.
The poor spelling alone should be a red flag that this notice did not come from online payment processor PayPal. While the link you see in the message appears legitimate, the message utilizes HTML coding to mask the actual address you are sent to by the link. You are instead taken to a PayPal look-alike site on another server altogether. Those who respond to this message and provide the info requested will soon find themselves quite a few dollars poorer.
Newer versions are much more sophisticated, employing better grammar and graphics to much more closely imitate a legitimate notice from PayPal - so much so that PayPal cautions its members to closely examine any e-mail that appears to come from them, particularly for several easily identifiable signs that it is a scam:
"Please use the following tips to stay safe with PayPal:
The commission of fraud in their name has become so prevalent that PayPal has established a special security center page to help its members guard against theft. They ask that, if you receive an e-mail supposedly from them that you suspect might be a scam, you forward it to email@example.com and advise you to delete it immediately.
Remember, no reputable company will request personal or financial information about you via e-mail. Any message that does so should be regarded as a scam and dismissed. If you've responded to this message, or any like it, contact local authorities immediately to find out what steps you should take to report it and minimize loss.
References: Snopes.com, PayPal.com