Avoid getting scammed by fake "PayPal" emails

Also Known As: possible malware infections
Damage level: Medium

What is the "PayPal Email Phishing Scam"?

"PayPal Email Phishing Scam" refers to a spam campaign - a large-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent. The letters distributed through this campaign are disguised as purchase notifications from PayPal - an online money transferring company. The aim of these scam emails is to obtain personal and sensitive information from the recipients. Potentially, to also trick them into making fraudulent payments.

PayPal email spam campaign

"PayPal" scam email in detail

The fake "PayPal" emails (subject/title "Your Purchase Id: @@#7488392XR8499371##"; may vary) inform recipients that their purchase from Target has been confirmed. The 585.96 USD payment is going through the verification, and recipients are promised to be sent a notification once the process is complete.

Additionally, the scam letters state that the nonexistent order will arrive through the standard delivery method chosen by the recipients. Allegedly, the payment will be completed in a few hours and will be reflected in the recipients' bank statements. The emails contain a phone number that can be used if any issues arise.

Furthermore, recipients are warned that the fake order can only be canceled within 24 hours. As mentioned in the introduction, these "PayPal" emails are fake. Therefore, by calling the provided number - users will contact the scammers and subsequently may be tricked into disclosing sensitive information or making bogus payments.

Emails like these scam "PayPal" notifications often operate as phishing schemes. Scams of this type are designed to extract a variety of vulnerable data from their victims. Information of interest includes: account/platform log-in credentials (i.e., IDs, email addresses, usernames, and passwords), personal details (e.g., names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, occupations, etc.), finance-related data (e.g., credit card numbers), and so on.

For example, the collected data can be used to further personalized scams and/or sold to third-parties (potentially, cyber criminals). To elaborate in more detail, through stolen finance-related accounts (e.g., online money transferring service accounts like PayPal) - scammers can make fraudulent transactions and/or payments for online purchases.

What is more, similar schemes commonly ask victims to pay for fake services. These "PayPal" letters may also operate as "refund scams". This scam model works by tricking the victim into thinking that they are owed a refund (e.g., for a purchase that they did not make).

The "refund" process usually involves victims allowing scammers to remotely access their devices (this can lead to various issues, including system infections). After the access is established, users are asked to enter the correct refund amount.

The scammers then convince the victims that they made an error and a significantly larger sum has been refunded to them. To rectify this, they are asked to return the excess funds - typically through difficult-to-trace methods like digital currency transactions (e.g., gift cards, pre-paid vouchers, cryptocurrency, etc.) or hidden within mail packages.

Due to the fact that no funds, excessive or otherwise, have even been transferred into the victims' accounts - they are essentially scammed out of their own money. To summarize, by trusting the fake "PayPal" emails, users can experience system infections, severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft.

Threat Summary:
Name PayPal Email Phishing Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Emails claim a purchase payment is being verified
Disguise Scam emails are disguised as notifications from PayPal
Symptoms Unauthorized online purchases, changed online account passwords, identity theft, illegal access of the computer.
Distribution methods Deceptive emails, rogue online pop-up ads, search engine poisoning techniques, misspelled domains.
Damage Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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Spam campaigns in general

"Voicemail", "Anti-Spam Policy Violation", "Wage Increase", "The BMW Lottery", and "UN Covid-19 Stimulus Package" are some examples of scam emails. The letters sent through spam campaigns are disguised as "official", "urgent", "important", "priority", and similar.

Aside from phishing and various scams, deceptive emails are also used to proliferate malware (e.g., trojans, ransomware, cryptocurrency miners, etc.). Due to how widespread spam mail is, it is strongly advised to exercise caution with incoming emails and messages.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Spam campaigns spread malware via infectious files distributed through them. These files can be attached to the emails, or they can contain download links of such content. Virulent files can be in various formats, e.g., archives (ZIP, RAR, etc.), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), PDF and Microsoft Office documents, JavaScript, and so forth.

When the files are executed, run, or otherwise opened - the infection chain/process (i.e., malicious software download/installation) is initiated. For example, Microsoft Office documents infect systems by executing malicious macro commands.

This process starts the moment a document is opened in Microsoft Office versions released before 2010. Later versions have "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic execution of macros. Instead, users can manually enable macro commands (i.e., editing/content), and they are warned of the potential risks.

How to avoid installation of malware?

To avoid infecting the system via spam mail, it is advised against opening suspicious and irrelevant emails - especially any attachments or links present in them. Additionally, it is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010.

However, malware is not spread just through spam campaigns, it is also distributed via dubious download channels, e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting (freeware) websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks (e.g., Torrent clients, eMule, Gnutella, etc.), and other third-party downloaders.

Furthermore, illegal activation ("cracking") tools and fake updates are prime examples of malware-proliferating content. Therefore, it is important to download only from official/verified sources and activate/update software with tools provided by genuine developers.

It is crucial to have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and updated. This software has to be used to run regular system scans and to remove detected threats. If you've already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the fake "PayPal" email letter:

Subject: Your Purchase Id: @@#7488392XR8499371##




Your order has been confirmed by Target Inc worth 585.96 USD on July 20, 2021


We are going through the verification process for your recent order, once done we will notify you.
Your product will be delivered through standard delivery as you have opted for this service.
We would suggest you to kindly check your bank statement in few hours for this charge.
If you have any questions about this charge, please connect with our team at +1 (866) 314-1823.


Here is your order details: -


Ref Id: 873934YT398849


Payment Mode: PayPal Credit (Online Payment)
Description: Fitbit Versa 3 Smartwatch
Quantity: 03
Amount: 585.96 USD


If you have any payment related issues or you wish to change your mode of payment, please connect with our team at +1 (866) 314-1823.


In order to cancel this order kindly reach out to us soon as we would not be able to void this charge after 24 hours.


Thanks & Regards,


PayPal Team

Appearance of the "PayPal" scam email (GIF):

PayPal email phishing scam appearance (GIF)

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How to remove malware manually?

Manual malware removal is a complicated task - usually it is best to allow antivirus or anti-malware programs to do this automatically. To remove this malware we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

If you wish to remove malware manually, the first step is to identify the name of the malware that you are trying to remove. Here is an example of a suspicious program running on a user's computer:

malicious process running on user's computer sample

If you checked the list of programs running on your computer, for example, using task manager, and identified a program that looks suspicious, you should continue with these steps:

manual malware removal step 1Download a program called Autoruns. This program shows auto-start applications, Registry, and file system locations:

screenshot of autoruns application

manual malware removal step 2Restart your computer into Safe Mode:

Windows XP and Windows 7 users: Start your computer in Safe Mode. Click Start, click Shut Down, click Restart, click OK. During your computer start process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until you see the Windows Advanced Option menu, and then select Safe Mode with Networking from the list.

Safe Mode with Networking

Video showing how to start Windows 7 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 8 users: Start Windows 8 is Safe Mode with Networking - Go to Windows 8 Start Screen, type Advanced, in the search results select Settings. Click Advanced startup options, in the opened "General PC Settings" window, select Advanced startup.

Click the "Restart now" button. Your computer will now restart into the "Advanced Startup options menu". Click the "Troubleshoot" button, and then click the "Advanced options" button. In the advanced option screen, click "Startup settings".

Click the "Restart" button. Your PC will restart into the Startup Settings screen. Press F5 to boot in Safe Mode with Networking.

Windows 8 Safe Mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 8 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 10 users: Click the Windows logo and select the Power icon. In the opened menu click "Restart" while holding "Shift" button on your keyboard. In the "choose an option" window click on the "Troubleshoot", next select "Advanced options".

In the advanced options menu select "Startup Settings" and click on the "Restart" button. In the following window you should click the "F5" button on your keyboard. This will restart your operating system in safe mode with networking.

windows 10 safe mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

manual malware removal step 3Extract the downloaded archive and run the Autoruns.exe file.

extract autoruns.zip and run autoruns.exe

manual malware removal step 4In the Autoruns application, click "Options" at the top and uncheck "Hide Empty Locations" and "Hide Windows Entries" options. After this procedure, click the "Refresh" icon.

Click 'Options' at the top and uncheck 'Hide Empty Locations' and 'Hide Windows Entries' options

manual malware removal step 5Check the list provided by the Autoruns application and locate the malware file that you want to eliminate.

You should write down its full path and name. Note that some malware hides process names under legitimate Windows process names. At this stage, it is very important to avoid removing system files. After you locate the suspicious program you wish to remove, right click your mouse over its name and choose "Delete".

locate the malware file you want to remove

After removing the malware through the Autoruns application (this ensures that the malware will not run automatically on the next system startup), you should search for the malware name on your computer. Be sure to enable hidden files and folders before proceeding. If you find the filename of the malware, be sure to remove it.

searching for malware file on your computer

Reboot your computer in normal mode. Following these steps should remove any malware from your computer. Note that manual threat removal requires advanced computer skills. If you do not have these skills, leave malware removal to antivirus and anti-malware programs.

These steps might not work with advanced malware infections. As always it is best to prevent infection than try to remove malware later. To keep your computer safe, install the latest operating system updates and use antivirus software. To be sure your computer is free of malware infections, we recommend scanning it with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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