After my usual day of work today, I made my way to the living room’s couch. I have been giving training to a new addition to our team the last couple of weeks, so I don’t have much free time to check social medias or the internet in general during my shift.
So, I sit down, turn on my tablet and spot a whole lot of new emails waiting in my in-box. I start scrolling down, to see 8 (EIGHT) emails from Paypal, which worried me, because I only rarely use my account, and sure didn’t expect that much mail from the company.
The first email dated back to 10h37 this morning, stating that I had connected to my account from a device never recognized by the website before. Followed messages saying that I had registered an alternative email, that my new cell phone number had been added, that my account had been upgraded to ”business” and then by 11h25, the company was letting me know that my account was blocked, and I could no longer use Paypal.
My first reflex was to go check the bank account and credit card I have linked in my Paypal profile, to make sure someone hadn’t been spending my (little) savings while I was working hard trying to earn a little more money. No abnormal transactions, but that was of little comfort.
My switch suddenly turned to panick. What if all of these emails were sent by scammers just waiting for me to loose my marbles and click on whatever link, hoping to stop the identity theft, while actually giving them the little information they needed to complete their hoax?
There are so many horror stories of internet or over-the-phone scams, and I never thought that the people getting caught were stupid (ok, aside from the people that tried to ”help” a mysterious Ivory Coast prince transfering insane amounts of money in exchange of a fair cut – That’s not super bright, but I still try not to judge – too much).
They are just in a state of emergency, and so was I and I started getting paranoïac. Did the email adress look legit? It did, but then again, if I was trying to take over people’s Paypal accounts, I probably wouldn’t use something like email@example.com to lure my victims in.
So I decided to try to log into my account to see if this was just a silly attempt at scaring me. There were several red framed messages with exclamation point signs stating that my account was permanently banned and that I could no longer do business with the platform due to fraudulous activities (WTF??).
By then, I hesitated clicking anywhere else.
But I had to do something, so I looked for the French customer service phone number and gave it a try. The recorded message invited me to call back during the opening hours, from 8h to 19h30, as the office was closed. At 17h30??
So I did what every somewhat kinda English fluent French speaking Canadian does… Call the English hotline. I got to an agent right away, who was very polite, confident and professional, but again, every ”good” crook knows how to rub you the right way, right?
Apparently, my account was hacked. The people who did it break into it, put their bogus email adress instead of mine, added a cell phone number, and upgraded my personal account into a business one. Unfortunately for them, Paypal’s security was on the lookout, and didn’t believe that my very quiet usage would suddenly change so much, and blocked the intruders right away.
Julia (my Paypal kicking bad guys’ asses pal) walked me into the whole process of getting what was mine and mine alone back, step by step. Doubts lingered in the back of my mind, until she told me she was sending me secret codes by text messages on my phone, and I realized they were from the same phone number that had sent me similar codes when I had registered my cellphone for more security, months ago.
By that time, Chéri had looked through his own emails, and found legit messages sent from Paypal to his adress a while back. And everything matched.
I could finally sigh with relief.
Julia finished securing my new account, and made sure I changed my password. She gave me a couple of tips to make my account ever safer for the future, and asked if she could do anything more for me.
Anything more? Than saving my (little) savings from being used to do some suspicious business? No thanks, Julia. You’ve done more than enough for tonight! You can fold your super hero cape and put it away for now.
I’ll sleep tight tonight, thanks to you.
Oh, and by the way… Nice try, suckers!!
So, my tips, if you get similar warning messages about one of your accounts online;
- Check the email adress the warning messages came from. (When in doubt, don’t click on ANY link).
- Check your actual account. And if it is in fact blocked, look for customer support directly on the company’s website.
- Be careful with your sensible information (Julia never asked for my full bank account or credit card number… Real companies don’t need you to give out all your personal informations).
- Trust your guts. If you have doubts, contact a friend you trust to have their not-paranoïac view of what’s happening.
Stay safe, Lovelies… Noone deserves to benefit from what you’ve built!