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Don't Fall for Scammers Sending Fake PayPal Messages

By Virginia Lawrence

Well, the scammers are at it again, trying to fool you into handing over private information. Now they are sending messages that appear to be from PayPal, saying that your account will be closed because your credit card information is outdated. The e-mails ask you to click on a link to a form where you can update your credit card information. Don't do it!

If you aren't participating in PayPal, then you won't fall for a message telling you that your account will be closed unless you make the update. But if you do have a PayPal account, you might be fooled.

These scam e-mails look like PayPal messages, even displaying the appropriate graphics. But if you take a minute to reflect, you can tell that the message is bogus.

First Clue:

 The links they provide do not go to the PayPal site. In contrast, if PayPal ever sent you a message to update your credit card, PayPal would tell you to go to your account on the PayPal site. There you would log on to your usual account and carry out the update.

Second Clue:

The message addresses you as "PayPal Member" while a real PayPal message will address you by name.

Third Clue:

The message says that your account will be closed unless you update, even though this is the first message you have received. This threat is thrown in to get you to act immediately, but PayPal would send gentle reminders before announcing that your account is about to be closed.

This type of scam is called "phishing" because they are fishing for your credit card information. Some scammers are pulling the same tricks using messages that appear to be from eBay. And to make it harder to trace these e-mail messages back to their source, the scammers are using a virus to send out the messages from unprotected computers.

How to guard against these and any upcoming variations? If you receive any message saying that you must update your credit card for an online account, ignore the link in the message. Go to the Web site for that account and log in as usual. Check to see whether your credit card info needs updating. Always be sure that you are on the correct site before giving your credit card number. And always keep your anti-virus software up to date!

-Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. is a professional Web Designer and Online Marketing Consultant who publishes both in print and online. Contact her at or visit her Web site at



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