Small Business Q & A: Don't Fall For The Latest Internet Identity Theft Scam

Dec 17


Tim Knox

Tim Knox

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Q: I use PayPal to accept credit cards for my online ... I recently received an email that my PayPal ... going to expire in five days if I didn't click a link in theemail and


Q: I use PayPal to accept credit cards for my online collectibles
business. I recently received an email that my PayPal account
was going to expire in five days if I didn't click a link in the
email and give them my PayPal account information. Being naturally
paranoid I decided not to give this information and I'm happy to
say that my PayPal account did not expire. Was this a scam?
-- Brenda A.

A: Be thankful that your paranoia kicked in,Small Business Q & A:  Don't Fall For The Latest Internet Identity Theft Scam Articles Brenda, because you
were about to fall victim to the scam of the week, this one aimed
at the 35 million merchants and individuals who use
as their online payment processor.

The email you received was not from PayPal, but from an Internet
bad guy behind a forged email address using the domain.
You should understand that no reputable online company will ever
ask you to provide your account information. Think about it.
They already have this information. Why would they ask you to
provide it.

Since I use PayPal for several of my online ventures, I, too,
received the email in question. The email first seeks to instill
fear in you by saying that your PayPal account will be closed if
you do not provide personal information. You are then directed
to open an attached executable file and enter your PayPal account
information and other personal information that PayPal doesn't
even require, including your social security number, checking
and savings account information, driver's license number, and
other personal information that can be used to clean out your
PayPal account and perhaps even steal your identity.

If you're not familiar with PayPal, it is a hugely successful,
web-based company (purchased by eBay in 2002) that many online
retailers and eBay sellers use to accept electronic payments for
everything from newsletter subscriptions to consulting services
to just about any product for sale on eBay.

The allure of PayPal is that it does not require the seller to
have a bank merchant account through which to process credit
cards. Anyone with a verifiable email address and bank account
can use PayPal and the service can be implemented almost
immediately after registering. When someone places an order
on a website that uses PayPal for online payments, that customer
is directed to to complete the payment process using
a credit card or electronic check. The merchant can transfer
the money collected in his PayPal account to his checking account
any time he likes. Since many larger merchants make this transfer
just once a week or so, their PayPal accounts are ripe for the
picking from those who have the cunning and lack of ethics
required to gain access.

The shear number of PayPal customers is one reason it has become
a popular target of scam artists trying to steal personal
information from individuals and businesses alike.

Identify theft is on the rise. Thanks to the Internet stealing
someone's identity has never been easier. At any given moment,
there are any number of Internet thieves using all manner of
high tech wizardry to steal personal and business information
from unsuspecting souls, and many times they can gain access to
this information simply by asking the person to provide it
through fraudulent means.

The PayPal scam is just the latest in a long line of sophisticated
attempts to steal personal information through online means,
Amazon, eBay, Dell Computer, and many others have been the brunt
of many such scams in recent years.

Identity theft is what's known as "a knowledge crime," which means
that the criminal doesn't have to break into your house to rob
you blind. If you have a bank account and a social security
number, you are susceptible to identity theft.

While most people are familiar with identity theft, most business
men and women never think about it happening to them, at least
on a professional level. Consider this: if a criminal can learn
your business checking account number or the number of your
company credit card, they can steal far more from your business
than if they had simply knocked down the door and carted off your

The Internet aside, most business and personal identity theft is
still the result of stolen wallets and dumpster diving. You
should guard your business records closely and be very careful
what you throw away. Stop and think for a moment what a criminal
might find in the dumpster behind your office.

There's a good chance that dumpster has, at various times,
contained scraps of paper with your social security number,
driver's license number, credit card number, old ATM cards,
telephone calling cards, and other pieces of vital business
information like bank statements, invoices, and purchase orders.
A dumpster-diving thief could literally rob your business blind
in a matter of hours.

Here are a few ways to protect yourself from business and personal
identity theft.

· Never give out your first name, last name, business name, email
address, account passwords, credit card numbers, bank account
information, PIN number, social security number, or driver's
license number.

· Change your online account passwords every 30 days. Believe
it or not, a hacker who steals your personal information can guess
your online account passwords in about two minutes. If your
Charles Schwab online account password is your birthday or the
name of your first born or family pet, count on a hacker cracking
that code faster than you can say "Bill Gates."

· Never provide personal information in response to an email or
telephone call. Just because someone calls and says they are
from Dunn & Bradstreet and need to confirm your business information
does not mean they are really from Dunn & Bradstreet.

· Never give your business credit card number over the phone to
place an order with someone who has called you unsolicited. If
you are interested in what they are selling get their number,
check out their company, then call them back to place the order.

If you think that you have become the victim of identity theft or
think someone is trying to steal your identity or personal
information you should report them immediately to the Federal
Trade Commission. You will find more information on their website
at For more information on
what to do if identity theft happens to you visit

So, if you ever receive an email from PayPal, Amazon, eBay, or
any other ecommerce website asking you to update your account
information by email you can pretty much bet the farm that it
is a scam.

Here's to your success.

Tim Knox, Founder
For more information on starting your own online business visit, the website for online