Paranoid about PayPal
September 29, 2010 4:54 PM   Subscribe

I received a payment via PayPal for something I'm not selling. Is this a scam?

This morning I got an e-mail saying that I've received payment (US$10.99) for an eBay auction (#260647524210). Some sort of comic book or something. The address to mail it to is in Puerto Rico.

I contacted PayPal tech support and they sent me instructions to refund the money, which seem straight forward, and I fully plan on doing this.

I made certain to go to PayPal directly, in a different browser. I didn't click any links in the e-mail. Logging into PayPal shows the $10.99 balance in the account.

But, given all the stuff I've read about PayPal scams, I'm proceeding with caution. I have only ever used PayPal to pay for things like print versions of on-line comics, or t-shirts. I have never received funds, so I don't know much about it.

Can anything bad come from this? Should I try to contact the buyer? A telephone number was not included. Is there something I'm not considering?
posted by jeffamaphone to Computers & Internet (20 answers total)
Isn't there an option to refuse the payment? That's what I would do.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:57 PM on September 29, 2010

Is it possible that comic book seller guy has a very similar email address to yours and comic book buyer guy just isn't a careful typist?

I would just refund the money through paypal as they've instructed you to do and leave it at that. Why create unneeded hassle for yourself?
posted by phunniemee at 4:57 PM on September 29, 2010

Cjorgensen: I could not find a PayPal option to refuse payment, only refund it. A quick Google search reveals that you can refuse un-verified accounts, but this account is verified.

Phunniemee: I think this is very possible, and that's what I'm hoping happened. However, when I go to look at the auction it just says "This listing has ended." so I don't know how to find out anything about the real seller (can you view finished auctions on eBay? I thought you could, but I don't really use it and it's not obvious to me how to do so.)
posted by jeffamaphone at 5:03 PM on September 29, 2010

A bit strange because when dealing directly through eBay you don't generally have to manually put in the Paypal address you are sending money to. But it still could be an honest mistake. Just follow Paypal's instructions I'd say and don't do anything else - especially nothing that takes the money out of your own pocket in any way.
posted by Diplodocus at 5:03 PM on September 29, 2010

If you scroll further down the page you can see the finished auction.

You're a Jeff -- the seller for that auction is a Jeff -- is your e-mail a 'jeffcommonlastname@'? Is it possible he's the dot-com and you're the dot-org or some other tiny difference?
posted by kmennie at 5:11 PM on September 29, 2010

If you go down to the bottom of the page there is a little link to "Ask a question." On the next page --> "Can't find an answer? Contact seller." If you don't have an account and can't contact him, and would like me to point him to this thread, I'd be happy to send a note. He would probably be happy to know that the buyer had at least tried...
posted by kmennie at 5:15 PM on September 29, 2010

My guess is that the seller accidentally put down your email by mistake. My guess is their email is very similar, but not quite yours. I would just refund it and forget about it.
posted by Slinga at 5:17 PM on September 29, 2010

Also, if there are any complaints from either the buyer or seller, just remember, it's not YOUR fault, you had nothing to do with it, so just make it clear that it's the seller's mistake and any blame lies with them.
posted by Slinga at 5:18 PM on September 29, 2010

Ah, kmennie, that helps a lot. Yes, there are many of me and it's a gmail account, so a big target. It's possible the seller mistyped the e-mail address I suppose.

I've done some more snooping around and everything seems to be passing the sniff test (I found the buyer on Facebook and he looks real). I'm hoping none of my personal information is revealed as part of the refund, but as far as I can tell this seems like an honest mistake.

I'll go ahead an issue the refund, and PayPal lets me put a note to the buyer, so I'll let him know he got the wrong address. I'll let the seller know as well.

Thanks everyone. I feel better now.
posted by jeffamaphone at 5:19 PM on September 29, 2010

Oh great, now my account is negative by $0.30. That sucks. Thanks PayPal.
posted by jeffamaphone at 5:24 PM on September 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

Wow, it's good to know that PayPal is still a place where virtuous deeds do not go unpunished. Every now and then I think of opening an account, and then I read another story like this one. Good luck--I hope this gets fixed soon.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 5:32 PM on September 29, 2010

Yeah, it warned me about this $0.30 cent fee that wasn't refundable, but it was completely unclear as to whether or not this was being accounted for in the refund. I though "well, it won't let me send more money than I have, right?"

posted by jeffamaphone at 5:36 PM on September 29, 2010

I think that's a recent change with Paypal refunds, that you can't refund the base Paypal fee (but the 3-4% charge does get refunded).

but yeah. that sucks for this.
posted by polexa at 5:57 PM on September 29, 2010

I think that's a recent change with Paypal refunds, that you can't refund the base Paypal fee (but the 3-4% charge does get refunded).

Why not ask the guy who made the mistake to pay it? It's his fault, not yours, and all you risk is a 'no'.
posted by lambchop1 at 6:27 PM on September 29, 2010

If you call or email paypal, there's a decent chance they'd waive the fee, but it depends on whether you really want to waste the time to get 30 cents back.
posted by Slinga at 6:28 PM on September 29, 2010

Normally this is the sort of battle I'd fight on principal, but I'm just too tired to deal with it today. I'm going to claim it as a loss on my taxes*, chalk it up as a life lesson, and move on.

Well, maybe I'll do one round of e-mail with the PayPal support people.

* not really.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:14 PM on September 29, 2010

Oh man, the dude payed me again. Gahhh! Now I'm just venting. At least I can recoup my $0.30 now.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:24 PM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

PayPal's phone customer service has been good for me every time. It's worth a call.
posted by lee at 8:39 PM on September 29, 2010

Yeah, at this point I'd wait for PayPal to remove the funds. Surreal.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:24 AM on September 30, 2010

Well, after refunding again and contacting the seller they seem to have got their junk together. Thanks everyone.
posted by jeffamaphone at 4:56 PM on October 3, 2010

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