Undated -- A fake PayPal scheme is costing consumers a lot of cash and major headaches. It's usually linked to online auction users. But US postal Inspectors say the key to spotting it could be the grammar -- or the lack thereof.
In 2013, there were more than 130 million active PayPal users across the globe. In fact, online shopping is expected to reach more than $360 billion by 2016. These staggering numbers make the industry vulnerable to scams.
Fifteen-year-old Adam McConnell was one of those victims. He said he got contacted in an email. He wanted to sell his laptop after getting a new iPad, and got a buyer right away. The buyer asked Adam and his mother to send the laptop immediately.
Adam's mother Susan said the request seemed innocent enough. "He said, 'It's my son's birthday and we'd love for you to overnight it.'...So we broke our backs trying to send it."
Luckily for them, they missed the Friday deadline for overnight shipping. That helped them unravel a massive scheme. It gave them time to take a second look at the notice PayPal allegedly sent. They noticed it was full of grammatical and spelling errors -- including spelling customer with an "o".
Susan McConnell said, "There was a line in there that most people would have picked up on... we did not. If you're selling a bunch of stuff... a bunch of stuff... not something like legitimate language for PayPal."
They immediately called postal inspectors who issued a mail recall and kept the package from being delivered. Postal Inspector Laura Carter explained how the scheme works. She said the person buys an item with the 'Buy It Now" option and send the seller a phony email pretending to be from PayPal. The note says the funds have been sent to the seller's account-- when no payment was made. So the suspect ends up with the merchandise without paying any money.
Inspector Carter recommended always logging in and checking your PayPal account. "See if there is anything from PayPal because they do send you an email to your account not just your email."
Adam and his mom also learned to check someone's user rating and eBay history before conducting business. Susan said, "Your trust is being violated and someone has stolen something from you and it's a stomach churning feeling. You feel foolish that you weren't smart enough to pick that up and you feel violated and even more so if it's your kid."
Police arrested the suspect in this case. He returned much of the merchandise to the victims involved.
Postal inspectors say there are some red flags you should be on the lookout for. Beware of the immediate purchase of the 'buy it now' price with no questions asked. Also be weary of requests for overnight shipping, and PayPal notices being sent to your email and not to your PayPal account.
US Postal Inspectors/WFMY News 2