Man using computer
A man using a laptop computer. Photo via Pixabay

The art of the scam keeps getting more sophisticated as con artists probe for profits by altering the come-ons they use to hook the unsuspecting. 

In your recent emails you may have seen their latest efforts — communications that appear to be legitimate messages from PayPal and MetaMask. The name for this particular family of scams is well-known. It’s called phishing, a scheme in which the perpetrator is fishing for a gullible victim.

It’s rooted in the Nigerian scam from years ago, but now it’s updated and more clever.

I was among those who received a PayPal alert in my email purporting to warn me about an imminent withdrawal. The Federal Trade Commission just issued an alert about this.

I sent the PayPal message I received to Ryan Karkenny, a San Diego County deputy district attorney who is also a member of the multi-agency Computer and Technology Crimes High Tech Response team. PayPal Security was also sent a copy.

“They are typically looking for more information when they get a live one on the phone,”  Karkenny said. “The most recent I’ve seen is where they have you call into a number, and the scammer says something like ‘your account has been compromised’ and asks you to transfer your funds to them, in order to allow them to protect them for you.”

PayPal scam
An example of the new PayPal scam.

PayPal security advised that if you disclosed any financial or personal data, or entered your details on a suspicious website, you should change your PayPal password immediately, contact your bank, review your recent PayPal payments and report any unauthorized payments in the PayPal Resolution Center.

 A good tip-off to fraud is when you’re told to act quickly, as was the case of the supposed charge to my PayPal account, for which I was advised to act within 24 hours. If you click on a link in the email or call the number provided, the scammers will try to steal your financial or personal information, and it could lead to identity theft.

According to the FTC, the MetaMask fake email will warn your cryptocurrency wallet is blocked. And if you don’t act fast and click on the provided link, your crypto will be lost, you’re told.

What you should do instead is ignore it and delete it, say the fraud experts. 

The FTC  also warned of another PayPal come-on, different than the example shown in this story.  The agency said this phishing email informs that “BNC Billing cancelled your payment.” And again, the scammer is telling you that speed is import, you need to reply right away.  Again the smart move is to ignore and delete.