Freelance Writers: How to Avoid PayPal Scams & Other Online Schemes Devised to Steal Your Money

If you’re a freelance writer, you likely have a lot going on in your PayPal — and other online money accounts. As hard as you work for your money, there are those working equally hard to steal it from you. Don’t let them! These 5 tips will keep your money safe from online scammers, schemers and thieves. 

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The graphic below illustrates a sampling of the kinds of transactions that go on in my banking/PayPal account on a monthly basis (click graphic for larger view).

In this post, I just wanted to relay some tips on some common money scams because I receive at last one of the following types of PayPal scam messages a week. Also, online thieves are getting better, so I share some tips on how to keep yourhard-earned money safe online. Following are a couple of the most common PayPal scams (at least lately).

online transactions

From: PayPal Security Services (customer@network.com)
Sent: Mon 8/10/15 3:04 PM

Dear User,

Currently, your account have been limited. Please take a few minutes out of your online experience to resolve your “Account Limitation” issue.

In a continuing effort to provide our users with state-of-the-art security, we limit accounts that may be in threat. We will review the information you wish to provide (Check: attachment) and try to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Please open the attachment (form page) that we have provided in this email. After verifying your account through the form, PayPal will restore your access back to normal.

We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused. We hope this issue gets resolved today.

Notified by,
PayPal Account Review Department

PayPal Scams: 5 Tips on How to Avoid Being Ripped Off Online

Following are five tips on how to avoid PayPal scams like this, and keep your earnings safe online. If you do these five really easy things, you exponentially decrease your chances of becoming a victim of cyber theft.

1. Consider the Source

Companies like PayPal don’t send messages like this. It’s riddled with grammatical errors, and the salutation and ending are totally unprofessional.

PayPal ScamThe grammar thing especially should be your very first clue that it’s not from a legitimate company like PayPal.

2. Say My Name!

Banks, PayPal, financial institutions, etc. usually address you BY NAME – specifically the name you provided when you opened an account with them.

They don’t send Dear Sir/Madam, Dear User, etc., type messages. That’s because they know your name and email address because YOU provided it to them.

They’re not spamming thousands of people with a generic greeting hoping to get you to click so they can rob you blind.

3. Google It

2017 Update: This post was originally written in 2015. Online scammers have gotten much smarter. I recently received a “Security Update” notice purportedly from PayPal which used the name on my PayPal account. It also used the official PayPal logo and looked very official.

It had tons of links in it saying I needed to to X, Y and Z to make all these security changes to keep my account secure, or it would be terminated. Here is part of it …

PayPal Scam Alert for Freelance WritersSee how official it looks? Also, there’s none of the bad grammar you’d expect from a phishing email. And since Google rolled out security changes in early 2017, it seemed like something that would need to be done (if you stay on top of stuff like this).

STILL … something said, “Don’t click on any linkss in this email.” The first thing I did was Google it. As the subject line of the email was “REQUIRED to avoid service interruptions you need to complete important security upgrades,” I googled “PayPal Security Upgrades Help”. That led me to the page on PayPal’s site where others talked about having received the same email and that it was a scam.

Also, I logged into my PayPal account directly. If the “security upgrade” notice had come from PayPal, there would have been a notice in my message center there.

So no matter how official an emal looks — even if you’re 100% sure that it’s from PayPal — DON’T click on any links. Always log directly int your PayPal account. And when it doubt, Google it. These scammers send out thousands of emails, so 9 time sout of 10, someone has posted something in a trusted forum so you can find out the real deal.

4. Just Say No to Attachments

Notice how the email in the first example here asks you to fill out a form that they attached?

Legitimate companies like PayPal won’t ask you to do this. What they will do sometimes is ask you to click a link to go to your account. But notice … they ask you to log into your account – not fill out some attached form.

STOP! Don’t ever do this (ie, fill out an attached form). Ever, ever, ever.

Even when I receive what I know are legitimate notices from my bank or investment company that contain a link, for example, I NEVER, EVER, EVER click that link. I still go directly to the site from a new browser window that I open myself and log in from there. Why?

Because many companies set up spoof sites to get your info; they don’t ask you to fill out a form. They include a link to what looks like the legitimate site you’re used to doing business with. And when you log in – whammo! — they have your info. Many of these spoof sites are sooooo good; they look totally legit. So you have to be careful.

Note: A very common thing for spoof sites to do is to use the number zero instead of an “O”, or the number 1 for L (lower-case) if those letters are part of the name. Most people don’t even pay attention to this, and that’s why you should always, always navigate to the site yourself instead of clicking on links in emails you receive. This can’t be stressed enough.

THIS is why I log in to the site myself by typing in the web address (or using the saved favorite on my computer). This way, I can be sure that I’m not logging onto a fake site.

5. Look for the “s”

As in secure. When you log into a secure site, you’ll notice that it starts with https://, as opposed to just http://. And, it has the lock on it. See diagrams just below. This is what it looks like when you log onto Bank of America and PayPal’s legitimate sites.

secure site

secure site1

Learn more about how to tell if a website is secure.

Cyber Crime: Some Sobering Stats

Cyber criminals are getting more and more sophisticated, especially as online scams are relatively easy to perpetrate, and they can be done from anywhere in the world. For example, did you know that the cost of cuybercrime is estimated to reach $2.1 trillion globally by 2019?

The worldwide cost of this type of crime was a whopping $460 Billion in 2016 (yes, billion with a “B” — and to be honest, I’m surprised it’s not more). As you can see from the stat above, that’s on pace to more than quadruple over the next couple of years.

One stat that stood out to me in the CNBC article was, “In 2016 “cybercrime cost the global economy over $450 billion, over 2 billion personal records were stolen and in the U.S. alone over 100 million Americans had their medical records stolen.”

America has a population of roughly 320 million. That means that almost a third of its citizens have had their personal data stolen. And according to the 2014 FBI Internet Crime Report, the average dollar lost overall by citizens was $2,971 (see Page 8). But, the average dollar loss for those who actually lodged a complaint was an astounding $6,472. I guess when you lose a good chunk of change, you’re more likely to take the time to report the thief to someone, huh?!

Freelance Writers: More Info on How to Protect Your Online Earnings

Here’s a related post I wrote on the subject that’s still very relevant today – perhaps even more so as more and more of us are doing business online.

I do practically everything on the web and sometimes when I stop to think about it, it scares the bejeezus outta me just how easy it is for someone to mess with your livelihood, your savings, how you conduct your daily life, etc.


FYI, the advice dispensed here applies to other online scams too that are designed to get your money (eg, bank accounts, investment accounts, credit card accounts, etc.).

Because scammers never tire of trying to get your hard-earned money, you must never tire of making it your business to stay a step ahead of them. Here’s hoping this has helped a little.

Another Type of Online Theft Freelance Writers Have to Worry About

Financial is not the only type of online scam you have to worry about; there’s also content theft, copyright infringement, etc. It’s just one of the reasons I trust HostGator for my web hosting needs. After reading my story, you might want to as well.

P.S.: How One Blogger Earned Almost a Million Dollars in One Year

This is a great way to diversify your freelance writing income so you don’t feel like you have to take on every project that comes your way. The peace of mind you feel when you get to this point? Priceless.

P.P.S.: “It’s Like Printing Money!”

That’s the way one freelancer described this bundled freelance writing course. It gives you all the tools you need to become a high-earning freelance writer. Learn how to enroll now and pay later so you can get trained and get started almost immediately!

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    1. Great Tips!

      Also most PayPal emails don’t include links, so it’s good to be cautious before clicking on one, even if everything else looks good. It’s better to spend a little bit of time reviewing an email than to have someone’s fingers in your pocket 🙂

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