All the PayPal Hooplah

Album Cover: White Blood Cells

"Every breath that is in your lungs is a tiny little gift to me."
White Stripes / Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground

Posted on July 31, 2004 12:31 AM in Computers
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

I'm continuously amazed by how easily dumbfounded average computer users find themselves when faced with email that has even the slightest bit of "hoax potential." The biggest culprits in recent history seem to be the emails that PayPal users receive. I've been a PayPal user for quite a few years, and they've always been really good (almost to the point of annoying) about letting users know that they only expect to receive sensitive information (e.g. credit card or bank account information) via their secure server at

Not too hard to follow, right? Wrong. Apparently plenty of people have fallen prey to "phishing" scams related to PayPal emails. I've received a few of these hoaxes myself, and it's extremely easy to hover over the email links and see that http://234.343.23.99 is not the same as

To make matters worse, there's now a legitimate PayPal email going around that is further (notice I didn't use farther here) confusing PayPal users. Apparently the links in the email that point to don't quite look legitimate enough?

All in all I know this attack is a bit unfair. The average computer user probably doesn't know the significance of a non-secure IP-based web address in comparison to one that starts with https:// and contains the actual domain of the company in question. However, my question is, shouldn't they? In a day and age where computers are literally taking over just about every aspect of life, people need to smarten up and take things more seriously. Learn what is safe, and apply it to the things you do online. If something looks "phishy," take extra care in exploring it, but don't use the blacklist approach before you've found at least some reason to.

I'll get off my soapbox now, but before I do, let me just clarify that yes, this post is directed at each and every grandma I've seen in an AOL commercial touting how easy it is to get online.


Arcanius on July 31, 2004 at 2:06 AM:

Well, its kind of like those parents that leave their guns in their houses loaded and unsecured while they are at work and their kids are at home...

Some people are just dumb, they don't want to spend the effort to overcome their ignorance, or they just plain don't care, until after the shot goes off, or until after the've been scammed out of money.

And as sad as it is, I think this is simply the cost of living in a world full of fallible beings. But at least you are doing your part to protect those AOL grandmas... hopefully a few of them read your blog.


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