How to spot fake emails like the "PayPal Account Has Been Charged" scam email

Also Known As: PayPal Account Has Been Charged scam
Damage level: Medium

What kind of scam is "PayPal Account Has Been Charged"?

This is a fake letter from PayPal claiming that a certain amount of money will be deducted from the user's account. Scammers behind it attempt to trick recipients into calling the provided number. The PayPal company has nothing to do with this email. Thus, this letter should be ignored.

PayPal Account Has Been Charged email scam

More about the "PayPal Account Has Been Charged" scam email

Recipients are informed that their PayPal accounts have been charged with the sum of $479.35. The deduction from their accounts will occur within the next 24 hours. If recipients are not familiar with this transaction or wish to cancel these charges, they are advised to contact the toll-free customer support number at +1 (888) 289-0291.

The letter also contains a fake invoice number, amount, date, die data, and payment mode. Recipients are also reminded that if they have any questions or concerns, they should not hesitate to reach out to the customer support team.

Typically, when scammers are contacted, they ask to provide sensitive information (such as credit card details, ID card information, or other details) or attempt to obtain remote access to computers. If they have access to computers, they can steal personal information, plant malware, and perform other malicious activities.

Two examples of scams where scammers attempt to trick users into providing remote access to computers are "TeamViewer Tech Support Scam" and "UltraViewer Tech Support Scam".

Also, scammers behind letters like the PayPal scam email may urge users to pay for unnecessary or fake services or products. Either way, it is strongly recommended to ignore such emails to avoid monetary loss, identity theft, computer infections, and other issues.

Threat Summary:
Name PayPal Account Has Been Charged Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim $479.35 will be deducted from the recipient's PayPal account within 24 hours.
Fake Customer Support Number +1 (888) 289-0291, (888)519-5916, 802-440-0554
Disguise Letter 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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Similar scam emails in general

As a rule, scammers behind emails of this kind pretend to be legitimate companies, organizations, or real people. Thus, their letters often appear legitimate. Their goal usually is to extract money and (or) sensitive information. They use obtained information to steal identities or online accounts or perform other malicious activities.

Examples of scam emails are "Attached Payment Invoice", "Confirm Ownership", and "Jeff Bezos Charity Project". Emails sent by threat actors can also be used to deliver malicious software.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Cybercriminals aim to trick users into infecting computers via email by sending malicious links or attachments. These attachments can include MS Office documents, PDFs, executable files, archives (such as ZIP or RAR), JavaScript files, or ISO files, all of which can be used to distribute malware.

The method of infection varies depending on the type of file. For example, MS Office documents infect a computer when macros commands are enabled, while executables infect a computer immediately upon opening them.

How to avoid installation of malware?

To avoid computer infections, it is important to leave attachments or links received from unknown email addresses unopened, especially if the emails do not concern you. It is also recommended to download software and files from official websites and stores rather than using other sources. Ads on suspicious pages should not be clicked as well.

Additionally, it is important to keep the operating system and programs installed on it up-to-date and to use tools created by the official developers to update and activate all software.

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 "PayPal Account Has Been Charged" email letter:


Invoice no.: 44GQ FQ89 Z7HY CDC9

Dear Customer,

Thank you for using PayPal.
Your Account has been charged with USD 479.35 and will be going to deduct from your account within 24 hours. If you did not recognize this transaction or want to cancel these charges.
Please contact Toll Free Customer Support Number: +1 (888) 289-0291

Invoice Number    :    44GQ FQ89 Z7HY CDC9
Invoice Amount    :    USD 479.35
Invoice Date    :    January 26, 2023
Due Date        :    January 27, 2023
Payment Mode    :    Online

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Quick menu:

Types of malicious emails:

Phishing email icon Phishing Emails

Most commonly, cybercriminals use deceptive emails to trick Internet users into giving away their sensitive private information, for example, login information for various online services, email accounts, or online banking information.

Such attacks are called phishing. In a phishing attack, cybercriminals usually send an email message with some popular service logo (for example, Microsoft, DHL, Amazon, Netflix), create urgency (wrong shipping address, expired password, etc.), and place a link which they hope their potential victims will click on.

After clicking the link presented in such email message, victims are redirected to a fake website that looks identical or extremely similar to the original one. Victims are then asked to enter their password, credit card details, or some other information that gets stolen by cybercriminals.

Email-virus icon Emails with Malicious Attachments

Another popular attack vector is email spam with malicious attachments that infect users' computers with malware. Malicious attachments usually carry trojans that are capable of stealing passwords, banking information, and other sensitive information.

In such attacks, cybercriminals' main goal is to trick their potential victims into opening an infected email attachment. To achieve this goal, email messages usually talk about recently received invoices, faxes, or voice messages.

If a potential victim falls for the lure and opens the attachment, their computers get infected, and cybercriminals can collect a lot of sensitive information.

While it's a more complicated method to steal personal information (spam filters and antivirus programs usually detect such attempts), if successful, cybercriminals can get a much wider array of data and can collect information for a long period of time.

Sextortion email icon Sextortion Emails

This is a type of phishing. In this case, users receive an email claiming that a cybercriminal could access the webcam of the potential victim and has a video recording of one's masturbation.

To get rid of the video, victims are asked to pay a ransom (usually using Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency). Nevertheless, all of these claims are false - users who receive such emails should ignore and delete them.

How to spot a malicious email?

While cyber criminals try to make their lure emails look trustworthy, here are some things that you should look for when trying to spot a phishing email:

  • Check the sender's ("from") email address: Hover your mouse over the "from" address and check if it's legitimate. For example, if you received an email from Microsoft, be sure to check if the email address is @microsoft.com and not something suspicious like @m1crosoft.com, @microsfot.com, @account-security-noreply.com, etc.
  • Check for generic greetings: If the greeting in the email is "Dear user", "Dear @youremail.com", "Dear valued customer", this should raise suspiciousness. Most commonly, companies call you by your name. Lack of this information could signal a phishing attempt.
  • Check the links in the email: Hover your mouse over the link presented in the email, if the link that appears seems suspicious, don't click it. For example, if you received an email from Microsoft and the link in the email shows that it will go to firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0... you shouldn't trust it. It's best not to click any links in the emails but to visit the company website that sent you the email in the first place.
  • Don't blindly trust email attachments: Most commonly, legitimate companies will ask you to log in to their website and to view any documents there; if you received an email with an attachment, it's a good idea to scan it with an antivirus application. Infected email attachments are a common attack vector used by cybercriminals.

To minimise the risk of opening phishing and malicious emails we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows

Example of a spam email:

Example of an email spam

What to do if you fell for an email scam?

  • If you clicked on a link in a phishing email and entered your password - be sure to change your password as soon as possible. Usually, cybercriminals collect stolen credentials and then sell them to other groups that use them for malicious purposes. If you change your password in a timely manner, there's a chance that criminals won't have enough time to do any damage.
  • If you entered your credit card information - contact your bank as soon as possible and explain the situation. There's a good chance that you will need to cancel your compromised credit card and get a new one.
  • If you see any signs of identity theft - you should immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission. This institution will collect information about your situation and create a personal recovery plan.
  • If you opened a malicious attachment - your computer is probably infected, you should scan it with a reputable antivirus application. For this purpose, we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.
  • Help other Internet users - report phishing emails to Anti-Phishing Working Group, FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, National Fraud Information Center and U.S. Department of Justice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why did I receive this email?

Even people who do not use PayPal may have received this letter. Such emails are not targeted or personalized. These letters are typically sent out to a large number of recipients.

I have provided my personal information when tricked by this email, what should I do?

If you have provided any account credentials, it is important to change them (passwords) immediately. If you have provided any other personal information, such as credit card details or ID card information, it is recommended to contact the corresponding authorities as soon as possible. This will help to protect your identity and prevent any potential fraudulent activities.

I have downloaded and opened a file attached to this email, is my computer infected?

If that file was executable, then it is likely that your computer has been infected with malware. However, if the file was a document, such as a PDF or a Word document, it is possible that your computer has not been infected. This is because simply opening a document is harmless - a malicious document cannot infect a computer until macros commands are enabled, or other steps are performed.

I have sent cryptocurrency to the address presented in such email, can I get my money back?

Unfortunately, cryptocurrency transactions are irreversible - retrieving the transferred funds (crypto) is impossible.

I have read the email but did not open the attachment, is my computer infected?

No, simply opening emails (even when they have malicious links or files in them) is harmless.

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections that were present in email attachment?

Yes, Combo Cleaner will scan your computer for threats and remove them. It can detect almost all known malware. To ensure that your computer is thoroughly cleaned, it is recommended to run a full scan. This is because high-end malware often hides deep within the system and a full scan will ensure that all threats are detected and removed.

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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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