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'Look Out for PayPal Scam' Warning Message


Message that circulates via social media and online forums warns users to watch out for an email from PayPal that says that they have taken £35.50 to pay for a Skype account.

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Brief Analysis

The message does describe one particular type of PayPal phishing scam and therefore the advice it contains is worth heeding. It should also be noted that PayPal is almost continually targeted by phishing scammers using a wide variety of phishing techniques.


Look out for PayPal scam! U will get an email from pay pal saying they have taken £35.50 from your account to pay for your Skype account, there is a section at the bottom which say click on to dispute. If you click on this it brings up a fake pay pal page and asks you to put your email and password in, DON'T as this is how they get control of your account! Please share with all friends xxxx

Detailed Analysis

This warning message has been circulating via various social media channels as well as online forums and blogs since around May 2013. The message warns users to look out for an email from PayPal that claims that £35.50 has been taken from the recipient's PayPal account and used to pay a Skype bill. The warning explains that clicking a link in the scam email opens a fake page designed to steal your username and password. 

I am discussing this warning here because a number of people have contacted me to ask if the warning is valid.

In this case, yes, the warning is indeed valid and worth heeding. Since at least 2011 scammers have been using and reusing a phishing technique that comprises scam emails that supposedly notify recipients that a Skype TopUp payment has been made via their PayPal account. Links in the scam emails open fake PayPal sites that entice users to enter their PayPal login details, and - in some cases - other personal and financial information.

It should be noted, however, that not all of the scam emails list a figure of £35.50. The supposed Skype payment amount and designated currency varies in different incarnations of the scam. Other details in the scam emails may also vary, including the wording and the position of the scam links.

Furthermore, it should also be noted that this particular phishing technique is just one among dozens of phishing attacks that continually target PayPal users.  Another common ruse is quite similar to the Skype example discussed here but claims that the recipient's account has been used to pay an ASDA order. Many PayPal phishing scams claim that the user's account will be suspended or blocked if an account is not updated. Other versions claimed that users must verify their accounts due to a possible security breach. Still others advise, that due to a security upgrade, users are obligated to confirm account details. All versions are designed to trick PayPal customers into divulging their login credentials and, often, their credit card details and identity information.

Because it conducts its business online and via email, PayPal is a primary target for phishing scammers. A quick rule of thumb. Genuine PayPal emails will always address you by your name, not via a generic greeting such as "Dear Customer".

If you receive a suspected phishing scam email from PayPal you can submit it for analysis via the address listed on the PayPal website.

Last updated: January 22, 2014
First published: January 22, 2014
By Brett M. Christensen
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