Scammed by “PayPal”

As someone who thinks they are good at spotting BS when I hear it; I am embarrassed admit that I have found myself duped a few times. The most recent was involving my PayPal account. 😩😩😩 It seems that I am more easily fooled when I am already feeling stressed about something.

This past week my husband added money to my PayPal. I waited at least 30 minutes and I had not received it. A little bit later it showed in my activity, but was not in my balance. I was concerned because it usually doesn’t take that long. So, I decided to call PayPal customer service. That’s where it immediately went down hill. 😑😑😑

I googled PayPal customer service and called the first number that came up in my search results. (Bad idea #1.) It rang a few times then went straight to putting me on hold. I was only on hold for a few minutes, but while I waited, I commented to my oldest son that it was strange to be put directly on hold. I hadn’t selected any options from an automated system or anything. (Gut feeling #1 ignored.) 😩😩😩

A man answered and identified himself as James.  There was a lot of background noise and static on the line; which was frustrating.  I could hear the voices of people talking in the background and I questioned this for a second in the back of my mind, but quickly dismissEd it. (Gut feeling #2 ignored.)  I have called customer support for other companies and heard background noise so I told myself I was making a big deal over nothing. I don’t know why it seemed off, but it did and I ignored my gut feeling when I shouldn’t.  I explained my issue to him and he summarized it back to me.  He then asked for my email attached to my PayPal account.  I provided it to him, and he repeated it back to me. (Bad Idea #2.)

“James” then told me that I would receive a text message with a security code and to provide it to him to verify my identity.  I received the text message from PayPal with a 6 digit code and I provided him with that code. (Bad Idea #3.)  OMG! How stupid could I be?!? It’s so embarrassing. 😳😳😳

So he put me on hold for a moment telling me he needed to determine how to fix my issue.  After a couple of minutes, he told me that he could see in my account activity a transfer from Luis in the amount of $$, but that it was not in my balance.  I said yes, that’s exactly what I told you I was calling for.  🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️

He told me that my account has been locked due to suspected fraudulent activity. I thought that was strange for two reasons.  First, I keep little to no money in the account.  I usually transfer only what I need to use for the moment. Second, its strange that this would happen at this exact moment.  (Gut feeling #3 ignored.)

I didn’t say anything about it, and he continued to tell me that PayPal is partnered with Google.  He says that Google detected possible fraudulent attempts to access my account from Mexico and Ohio. He asked if I have shared my login information with anyone, and I told him no.

At this point the light bulb is going off. DING, DING, DING!!!! 💡💡💡However, I decided to continue with the conversation to see where it was going.  He said that he can unlock my account but there is good news and bad news with it, and asks which I want first.  I told him to give me the bad news first.  I decided that if it’s not a scam he would say some thing like, “you need to follow these steps to reset your password and verify your identity to access your account”.  Well, let me tell you what customer support at “PayPal” wanted me to do!

Good Ol’ James told me that Paypal is not the one who locked the account, that Google was the one to lock the account.  He asks if I live near a grocery store.  I’m thinking “WTF?!?” but I said yes. I’m thinking if this isn’t a scam he is going to tell me that my PayPal Cash card may have been skimmed at a local store, and that is how my account was accessed. What he said instead is that I need to go to the store and buy a $100 Google Play card.  That once I do that, I need to give him the code off the back.  That this will unlock my account and release my money, refund the $100 I spent on the play card, and that PayPal will add $70 for my inconvenience.

LMAO!!! I wanted to do something really witty at this point, but I’m really not that cleaver.  So, I told him that this sounds like a scam.  He told me that this call is recorded for quality purposes and that it isn’t  a scam.  He said if I want my account unlocked I have to buy the play card. I told him I didn’t care what was recorded, I’m not buying the play card because this is a scam.  Then I hang up and find the REAL PAYPAL CUSTOMER SUPPORT NUMBER.

Here is how different it was.  I call PayPal and the automated system tells me they have located my account with the number I am calling from and gives me different options to select from.   The line is clear of static.  I get a woman on the phone and I tell her I called a fraudulent number and explain my original issue and what happened. I wish I had remembered her name!  She tells me that this is very common and they usually get calls from customers after they have already been scammed.  She explains that when you google PayPal they are not the first ones to come up in the search.  That they are constantly reporting the fake numbers but they are constantly making them as fast as google removes them.  She says they recommend to customers that they go to the website and select the number from there.

I had not done that.  I used the first one on the list, and it looked legitimate because of the way it was displayed  It even had the URL next to it and everything!  When they sent me the verification code it came from 729-725 and looked like this:

PayPal: Your security code s: XXXXXX. Your code expires in 10 minutes.  Please don’t reply.

So I replied to see what would happen.  I receive another message that says

PayPal: For assistance, pleas call us at 1-888-221-1161. (THIS IS THE LEGITIMATE NUMBER BTW)

However, I don’t look at the reply because she is telling me that my password was changed 16 minutes ago and was I the one to make the change.  I tell her no  and we go through the process of changing the password.  It is alarming how similar the process is.  I provided the last 4 of my social and she sends me a verification code.  Guess what, IT COMES FROM THE SAME NUMBER.  I’m feeling a little freaked out about that and I tell her this.  However, I am able to access my account and, after a quick check, I am pleased to see the money is now in my account that started this whole mess.

She asks me how I knew that this was the right number this time.  I tell her that this number came from the official PayPal page and that the entire process was different and seemed legitimate.  I didn’t have to provide any information for her to locate my account, they did it from the number  I was calling from.  The only  time she asked me for personal information was to verify my identity and send me the email to reset my password.

I called my husband and while talking out the events that occurred this is how I put it all together.  I gave “James” my email and he attempted to reset my password.  I gave him my verification code so he was then able to verify himself as me.  That’s why the code actually came from PayPal! The number in the second text is the actual number from PayPal.  He didn’t use the money in the account because 1. it wasn’t in there yet, and 2. it would provide a trail to locating him.  I’m sure there is a way to locate the IP address he used to access my account, but who is going to make the effort to find him? So, his main goal, that also leaves the smallest trail back to him, is to get the Google Play card.  I’m not sure how scammers use the cards to their benefit.

There are so many scams out there! I can’t believe I went through that.  The Federal Trade Commission is where you can learn more about scams and also report them.  Remember to protect your personal information.  If you believe your identity has been stolen call your local law enforcement.  They can provide you with the proper steps to follow.

PS.  Since then my husband and I have decided to get a few laughs scamming the scammers.  We have found 2 fake numbers the scammers are using.  We set up wake up calls, flight updates, and call giving them fake information just to mess with them.  The best one so far:

Hubby: …OK here is the code on the card.  You ready?

Scammer: Yes, go ahead.

Hubby: U, as in you’re retarded. Y, as in why are you still on the phone with me. S as in this is clearly a scam.

Scammer: (interjects) YOU MOTHER FUCKER….

Hubby and I laughing hysterically as he hangs up.

I mean why not give them a taste of their own medicine? It’s so funny.  Yesterday I couldn’t get the play card “because the government controls society through google and the aliens will find me and probe me if I buy it”.  LMAO  that lady was trying so hard not to laugh and convince me to do what she asked.

I’m not going to put the number on this post because I don’t want anyone calling it by accident.  Just please be aware that it’s out there.  That there is a chance you can actually call a scam, not just get calls from them.

What I learned from this experience:  Stop ignoring my gut feeling!  When something doesn’t seem right, it isn’t.  Take the time to evaluate the situation and why your gut is telling you that this is a bad idea.  Your body has a natural flight or flight response, your gut feelings are a part of that.  LISTEN TO IT!!!