Phony PayPal Accounts Used to Rip Off Online Sellers

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With all the warnings about scams collecting money from victims using Green Dot (GDOT) Money Paks or other reloadable debit cards, or a money transfer service like Western Union (WU) or MoneyGram, crooks have now turned to faking transactions on a site known for being legit -- PayPal.

The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers about a new scam that tries to fool online sellers into using phony PayPal sites. The targets of the scam are typically people selling things online that have significant value, like a car or a boat.

After the item is posted for sale, the FTC said an email will come from someone who says they will pay the full price. The conditions: The transaction must be immediate and it payment will be sent by PayPal. "What's really going on? A ruse to steal your personal information, money or merchandise," the FTC said.

Two Ways to Scam You

In one scenario, if you don't have a PayPal account, the "buyer" will send you a link to set one up. The FTC urges consumers to not follow links sent by email. Anyone who wants to set up a PayPal account can do so by going to

In another scenario, if you do have a PayPal account, the "buyer" says the payment has been sent. You're told to check your email where you'll be notified that not only has the supposed buyer paid, but he accidentally sent way too much money.

So, you'll have to send back the extra by using -- wait for it -- a money transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. The problem is that no money was sent. So, if you wire money, you won't be sending extra, you'll just be sending your own.

What You Should Do Instead

The way to check to see if a payment has been made is not through an email confirmation, the FTC said. Before you ship any item or decide you have been paid, don't rely on an email or by following links. Log directly into PayPal to see if the payment is in your account. And, the FTC warned, when anyone claims they've accidentally overpaid you, it should set off alarm bells.

In the last scenario, your buyer really sends you money and it really came from a PayPal account. But it's not their account. So you've received money for your car, but it was someone else's cash.

The FTC said if that happens you should contact PayPal and request an investigation, and file a complaint with the FTC and the police.

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