What is this unauthorized transaction on my PayPal account?

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By Christopher Elliott

Howard Rokofsky just discovered an unauthorized transaction on his PayPal account — specifically, a $303 charge he never made. But when he disputes the charge, the online payment service denies it within hours. Did the company act too fast?


I recently received an email from PayPal that said I’d sent a $303 payment. But I had not.

I opened a dispute on PayPal, reporting the unauthorized transaction. Exactly four hours later, I received the message that my claim was denied, that they did not discover any unauthorized transaction.

This seems like a very fast response, considering they said it would take up to 10 days to investigate. I phoned PayPal and a representative told me that my case was closed, but they would escalate it, and, if I wish, I could take the matter up with the local police.

Within 30 minutes, I received an email that PayPal had again denied my claim. This time they added that “Based on our review, we found this transaction is consistent with your PayPal payment history.”
I use PayPal sparingly, never above $100, and only from my home computer. So the transaction in question was certainly not consistent with my history.

It seems to me that all this has gone too fast. I do not believe PayPal really investigated my claim. If it had, then it would have found the payment was not made from my computer, and, most likely, not from within my country. I would like PayPal to refund my $303. Can you convince PayPal that this was an unauthorized transaction?
Howard Rokofsky, Prague


Wow, that was fast. PayPal gives itself 10 to 14 days to investigate a claim like this. Your case resolved in hours — and on Christmas Day. That seems a little suspicious. (Related: How do I get PayPal to reverse a fraudulent charge for $2,600? Can you help?)

Of course, PayPal should not hold you liable for an unauthorized transaction on your account. PayPal should have carefully investigated your claim, and if the facts are as you say, refunded the $303. (Related: Can Macy’s really upgrade my card without my permission?)

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A review of your paper trail between you and PayPal raised a few red flags. The payment went to a person to whom you had never sent money. PayPal’s rejections were quick and almost automatic, listing no specific reason for the rejection. It feels like a computer may have generated the email and that PayPal didn’t bother to get a person involved in your case. (Related: He ordered a camcorder but received a purse. Can PayPal help him with the wrong item?)

You could have appealed your case to someone higher up at PayPal. We list the names, numbers and email addresses of the executives at PayPal on the Elliott Advocacy site. Hopefully, that would have generated a response from a real person. Here’s my guide on how to get an unauthorized PayPal charge removed.

Reversing that unauthorized transaction on your PayPal account

PayPal claims it thoroughly reviewed your claim for unauthorized account use. It conducted “an in-depth review” of many factors and transaction details. “We also work to collect the necessary information and to confirm whether unauthorized activity took place,” it told you. “From reviewing your account, we have found that the activity on your account does not stand out as unusual or suspicious and no evidence was found that a third party had accessed your account to complete the transaction.”

You filed a local police report. Separately, my advocacy team and I contacted PayPal on your behalf. A week later, PayPal refunded your $303 without offering an explanation.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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