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

The busier fall season is almost here and the holidays are right around the corner. Many of you will have a lot going on in your PayPal accounts, and you’ll be conducting more business than ever online (eg, back-to-school shopping, sending invoices to clients, making travel reservations, holiday shopping, etc.). 

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 today’s post, I just wanted to relay a common money scam that’s floating around because I receive at last one of the following types of PayPal scam messages a week. Online thieves are getting better, so I’m sharing in hopes of helping you keep your hard-earned money safe online.

Following is the email I received. Below it I relay four tips on how to keep your earnings safe. If you do these four really easy things, you exponentially decrease your chances of becoming a victim of cyber theft.

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

How to Avoid Being Ripped Off Online: 4 Tips

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. Just Say No to Attachments: Notice how this email 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.

4. 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 cybercrime cost Americans $800,492,073 last year?

The worldwide cost of this type of crime was a whopping $400 Billion (yes, billion with a “B” — and to be honest, I’m surprised it’s not more). One stat that stood out to me in this article was, “In the last year alone, more than 40 million people in the U.S. had their personal information stolen.” America has a population of around 320 million. That means that 12.5% 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: Here’s More Info on How to Protect Your Online Earnings

Here’s a related post I wrote five years ago 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.

P.S.: 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. Learn more at http://dld.bz/dsXss.

P.P.S.: Get the Training You Need to Start Making REALLY Good Money as a Freelance Writer Almost Immediately! SEO Copywriter Training.

The average salary has fluctuated from around $40,000 to about $70,000/year since I started tracking it in 2009; and this is for full-time SEO writers. Freelancers can earn more because they get to set their own rates and can take on as many or few clients as they want. So sign up today and get started right away.

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Take the Class Now & Pay Later

FYI, did you know you can use Bill Me Later (aka PayPal Credit) to pay later? You can! I use it all the time to make purchases online – it’s a wonderful way to get what you need now if you’re a little cash strapped.

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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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