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I just got an email from PayPal asking me to verify my account in order to be able to receive a payment someone sent me, which exceeds European legislation maximum amount for a non-verified user.

First thing I thought it was a phishing attack, so I didn't click on anything and went to PayPal site on the browser. And I can see the notification there as well.

I checked and the law demands identification of the receiver for sums that exceed 2500€. I'm not expecting any payments on PayPal, and can't see the identity of the sender because I didn't get the payment.

I'm pretty sure this is some kind of scam, does anyone know how it could work?

The only way I could think is they ask for the money back, I send it back (which I won't do) and then they fill a complaint to PayPal on the original transfer so they get it back, and PayPal charges me for that amount.

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    "How does this scam work?" is usually unanswerable without seeing it through to the end. There are all sorts of tricks they use to turn other people's money into theirs. – glibdud Sep 10 at 11:27
  • Might as well verify your PP account and see what happens. Just don't spend the money until you are sure it is yours to keep. – gaefan Sep 10 at 12:04
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    Receiving a large sum of money from an unknown source in the hopes that maybe you'll get to keep it sounds like a very bad idea. – chepner Sep 10 at 18:10
  • @gaefan taking over 2500EUR that is not yours and does not belong to you is wrong, it may be illegal. Taking the money and waiting to see what happens exposes OP to more risk. – Freiheit Sep 10 at 19:40
  • "I just got an email from PayPal." Maybe, maybe not. What if you received a well-made fake that looks like a paypal email? – Paul Oct 15 at 22:17
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Your risk here is roughly the same as receiving a paper check or wire transfer that you did not expect.

The least-bad thing that will happen is that it was a genuine mistake, the sender will detect the error, and reverse the transfer. By not accepting the transfer you save yourself and the sender this hassle.

A potential scenario is that the money is being sent from a compromised account. You'll be asked about the error and asked to send the money through some other means to avoid PayPal hassle and fees. Once the fraud is detected the scammers will have YOUR money and PayPal or the original victim will want the transfer back, putting you in the negative.

Accepting the transfer may expose you to some legal risks. It certainly exposes your time to some risk to unravel the problem. Taking money that is not rightfully yours is clearly wrong, regardless of any legal consequences.

Your two best courses of action are one of:

  • Ignore the transfer, check on it every few days. Hope the sender catches the mistake.
  • Contact PayPal support and ask about a transfer you didn't expect and if they can help you identify it before you accept it.
  • Check your inbox for messages. Have you sold something recently? Have you bought something on PayPal that you might have a refund coming for? Did a relative send you a nice gift?
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