Q: I use PayPal to accept credit cards for my online collectibles business. I recently got an email that my PayPal account was going to expire in five days if I did not click on a link in the email and give them my PayPal account info. Being naturally paranoid I decided to not provide this info and I am pleased to say that my PayPal account didn’t expire. Can it be a scam?

A: Be thankful your paranoia kicked in, Brenda, because you’re going to fall prey to the scam of this week, that one directed at the 35 million merchants and people who utilize http://Paypal.com because their online payment processor.

The email that you received wasn’t from PayPal, but from an Internet bad guy behind a forged email address with the http://PayPal.com domainname. You need to realize that no respectable online company will ever ask you to supply your account info. Consider it. They already get this info. Why should they ask you to give it.

Because I use PayPal for several of my online ventures, I, too, received the email . The email first seeks to instill fear in you by saying that your PayPal account will be closed if you don’t offer private details. You’re then directed to open an attached executable file and enter your PayPal account information and other personal information that PayPal does not even require, including your social security number, checking account and savings account informationand driver’s licence number, along with other private information which may be employed to scrub your PayPal account and perhaps even steal your identity.

In case you are not familiar with PayPal, it’s a hugely profitable, online 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 virtually every product for sale on eBay.

The allure of PayPal is that it doesn’t call for the vendor 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 led to http://PayPal.com to finish the payment process by means of 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 weekly or so, their PayPal accounts are ripe for the picking from those people who have the cunning and lack of ethics required to get.

The shear number of PayPal customers is 1 reason it is now a favorite target of scam artists trying to steal personal information from individuals and companies alike. Identify theft is rising. Due to the Internet stealing someone’s identity has never been simpler. At any given instant, you can find any number of Internet thieves using all manner of high tech wizardry to steal personal and business information from unsuspecting souls, and lots of times they could obtain access to the information by simply asking the individual to provide it through fraudulent means.

The PayPal scam is just the most up-to-date in a long line of sophisticated attempts to steal personal information through online means, Amazon, eBay, Dell Computer, and lots of others are the brunt of many such scams in the last few decades.

Identity theft is what is called”an understanding crime,” so that the offender does not need to break into your home to rob you blind. In case you’ve got a bank account and a social security number, you’re prone to identity theft.

While most individuals are knowledgeable about identity theft, most business people never think of it happening to them, at least at an expert degree. Think about this: if a criminal can learn your business checking account number or the amount of your organization credit card, they can steal a lot more from your business than if they had just knocked down the door and carted off your desk.

The world wide web aside, most business and personal identity theft is still the end result of stolen wallets and dumpster diving. You must guard your business records closely and be very careful what you throw off. Stop and consider for a moment what a criminal might find in the dumpster behind your office.

There is a fantastic chance that dumpster has, at various times, contained scraps of paper with your social security number, driver’s licence number, credit card number, old ATM cards, phone calling cards, and other pieces of vital business information like bank statements, invoices, and purchase requests. Even a dumpster-diving thief could literally rob your company blind in a matter of hours.

Listed below are a couple ways to protect yourself from business and personal identity theft.

· Never give out your first name, last name, company name, email address, account passwords, credit card numbers, bank account information, PIN number, social security number, or driver’s permit 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 or three minutes. If your Charles Schwab online account password is your birthday or the title of the first born or family pet, count on a hacker cracking that code faster than you can say”Bill Gates.”

· Never give personal information in answer to an email or phone call. Just because somebody calls and says that they are from Dunn & Bradstreet and need to confirm your business information doesn’t mean they’re from Dunn & Bradstreet.

· Never give your business credit card number on the telephone to place an arrangement with somebody who has called you unsolicited. If you’re thinking about what they are selling get their number, check out their company, then call them back to place the order.

If you believe you have come to be the victim of identity theft or think someone is attempting to steal your identity or personal information you should report them promptly to the Federal Trade Commission. You may find more info on their site in http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/. To learn more about things to do if identity theft happens to you personally see http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs17a.htm.

Therefore, in the event that you ever get an email from PayPal, Amazon, eBay, or any other ecommerce website asking you to upgrade your account information by email you can pretty much bet the farm it is a scam.

Here is to your success.