PayPal is a convenient, widely used and generally secure platform for online purchases and money transfers. It allows you to store payment methods and check out orders or send funds with only a few clicks. However, the site isn’t immune from scammers looking to steal your money, often by failing to send you an item you paid for or by sending you something other than what you bought.
You can take steps to try to avoid fraudsters, but it’s also helpful to know how to get money back from PayPal if you get scammed.
Does PayPal refund if you get scammed?
PayPal will refund your money if you get scammed—in some cases. The platform’s Purchase Protection program generally covers buyers when an item you purchased isn’t as described or simply never arrives. If your transaction qualifies for Purchase Protection, you’ll get a refund for the full purchase price, plus any shipping costs.
Some examples of situations covered by purchase protection include the following:
- You received the wrong item.
- You received fewer items than you purchased.
- The item broke in transit.
- The item is missing parts or pieces.
- The item was described as “authentic” but is clearly counterfeit.
- The item was described as “new” but is clearly used.
We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the Purchase Protection program below, but in general, you’ll be eligible for a refund only if your PayPal account is in good standing and you attempt to resolve the dispute with the seller before making a claim with PayPal.
It’s also important to note that PayPal sellers could be scammed by buyers in the form of chargebacks. Basically, this is when a buyer asks their credit card company to cancel a transaction because they never received an item they paid for (even if they did), didn’t authorize a payment or don’t recognize a charge. This process happens independent of PayPal, though PayPal charges sellers a fee for chargeback claims. If this happens to you, read up on PayPal’s seller protection policy to find out what’s covered.
Of course, if you’re a buyer who’s been scammed, you can use the chargeback process to get your refund outside of PayPal’s dispute process.
How PayPal’s Purchase Protection program works
PayPal’s Purchase Protection program covers certain purchases made through PayPal. Generally speaking, items missing, damaged or not as described qualify for refunds under this policy. But it’s not as simple as asking PayPal for your money back.
- The first step to requesting a refund for any purchase is to contact the seller directly by email. If their contact info is available, you’ll find it within the transaction on the Summary page in your account under Recent Activity. Otherwise, you can open a dispute in the PayPal Resolution Center.
- Go to paypal.com/disputes and log in with your credentials.
- Click Report a Problem. Select the transaction you want to dispute and click the Continue button.
- On the next screen, select the reason for the dispute. For example, “I didn’t receive an item I purchased” or “I received an item that’s not as described.”
- On the next screen, you’ll be asked to provide details about your dispute, including receipts, invoices or other supporting documentation. Click Submit.
- If you can resolve the dispute here, you don’t need to activate a Purchase Protection claim. However, if the seller doesn’t agree to a refund for an item you never received or that’s not as described, you can escalate the claim for PayPal to review.
- To make a Purchase Protection claim, go to your Resolution Center page and click View next to the open dispute.
- Click Escalate to PayPal, add any additional information to support your claim and click Submit (twice).
According to PayPal, claims are usually resolved within 14 days but may take 30 days or more.
There are also a few time limits for Purchase Protection you should know about. First, you must start the refund request dispute with the seller within 180 days of the purchase. If you have to escalate the issue to a Purchase Protection claim, you must do so within 20 days of opening a Resolution Center dispute with the seller.
Finally, fraudulent charges (i.e., you were charged for a purchase you never made) have to be reported within 60 days.
When does PayPal pay? What is not covered by Purchase Protection
As noted above, PayPal’s Purchase Protection program will reimburse you for the full purchase price of your item(s) plus the cost of shipping in some circumstances. However, there are some transactions not covered under this policy. These include the following:
- Real estate purchases
- Motorized vehicle purchases (like cars and motorcycles)
- Custom orders that don’t match the original description
- Industrial machinery
- Prepaid cards
PayPal’s Purchase Protection also does not apply to items purchased in person or that violate the platform’s policies. Send Money transactions (such as funds sent to family and friends) as well as donations (including those made via crowdfunding platforms) aren’t covered, either. And if an item you received was described correctly by the seller—and you simply don’t like or want it—you’re also out of luck.
Finally, PayPal won’t reimburse you if you file a claim for a missing or incorrect item beyond the 180-day eligibility period or report an unauthorized transaction more than 60 days after it occurred.
How do I prevent falling for PayPal scams?
Even though PayPal does often provide refunds if you’ve been scammed, the best thing you can do is avoid fraud in the first place by knowing the red flags, says Pauline Manu, a consumer advocate manager at Sitejabber, a consumer protection and review website.
“After shoppers are duped by a scam, the most common thing I hear from them is, ‘If only I knew what signs were red flags!’” she says. “The more of these warning signs you see, the more you should avoid buying from the site.”
PayPal has identified a handful of scams that consumers could encounter when using the service to send money or make purchases and some of the signs of a possible scam.
For example, fraudulent buyers may overpay you (the seller) and ask you to wire them back the difference. Problem is, they’ve paid you with a stolen credit card or bank account number. Not only will you never get the money from the purchase—you’ve also paid them out of your own pocket.
As a buyer, you could certainly fall victim to scammers who never intend to send you an item you paid for.
The main thing to keep in mind when using PayPal: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, whether a seller is promising you a pair of designer shoes for cheap or a buyer has overpaid for a transaction as “a bonus for your great service.”
To avoid hassle and heartache, never wire money to someone you don’t know and stop communicating with anyone who is promising a lot or pressuring you to engage. As a seller, only send items to the address on the transaction details page (and validate the address) to minimize the risk of shipping or package rerouting scams that result in fraudulent chargeback claims.
You can report any suspicious communication as well as spoofed websites directly to PayPal. Forward emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and texts to ‘7726’. You can also use BeenVerified’s reverse email search to try and ensure the person you’re communicating with is who they say they are.