With so many people still working from home, I often receive phone calls from numbers I don’t recognise.
So when what looked like a mobile phone number flashed up on my iPhone at around 10am on a Tuesday, I assumed it was a work-related call.
But there was a man with an American accent on the line, claiming to work for PayPal.
Hiding in the shadows: It is difficult to report attempted fraud to PayPal
He said three payments had been marked as fraud on my account, listing a $99.99 Gameshop purchase, $27.99 Target shop and $750 friends and family transfer.
All were supposedly made that morning. ‘Did you authorise any of these transactions?’ ‘No,’ I replied, in surprise.
‘OK, I understand. We can refund the money to the card that initiated the transactions,’ he reassured me. ‘We just need to take some personal details.’
Just as I was about to ask what he needed, my brain finally kicked into gear and I told him I wasn’t comfortable giving out my details to someone who had called out of the blue.
‘One second please,’ he said. This was followed by a suspicious silence. ‘Miss Bischoff, I understand your opinion but we will have to put a hold on your account to get these cleared, if you understand?’
‘That’s fine as I don’t really use it,’ I said. ‘And surely you would need to freeze the account while you dealt with this anyway?’
‘One second,’ he said again. Another silence. ‘OK, we will send you an email with the centre’s contact details. Have a good day.’
Now I was confused. Was this a tactic to make me more trusting if he called again? When I logged into my PayPal account everything seemed normal, and I didn’t receive an email. I called the mobile number back but there was no answer.
Now sure my instinct was correct, it was a good reminder of just how easy it is to get caught out by scammers when your mind is on something else.
What was more worrying was how difficult it was to report the attempted fraud to PayPal.
There didn’t appear to be a fraud helpline, so I tried to explain what happened in an online chat box.
A ‘PayPal Assistant’ responded: ‘It looks like you want to report an unauthorised transaction, is that correct?’ No, that’s not what I said. But before I could try again, another message popped up.
‘I found some articles in our Help Centre that might help you. Check them out! If you need more help, please type ‘Need more help’.’
None of the suggested articles were close to being relevant, so I typed ‘Need more help’.
‘All our agents are currently offline. Please try again during business hours,’ was the response. It was 6.30pm and PayPal’s ‘ messaging support’ was supposedly available until 8pm on weekdays. Why was no one there?
‘Our customer service staffing is limited due to coronavirus safety precautions,’ the message added.
Ah, of course. The new go-to excuse for why businesses can’t possibly provide consumers with basic customer service.
PayPal is a digital payment provider. Surely it has had enough time to work out how to staff a simple online help-centre by now? Firms need to stop treating the pandemic as if it’s some sort of Get Out Of Jail Free card.
While we’re on the topic of customers being fobbed off, Money Mail reader Samantha Wright, of Wirral, shared a tale of shameful service.
She recently took her 14-year-old niece shopping to buy her mother a birthday card and present. But after saving up her pocket money, her niece was left close to tears after being refused service in Lindt, Clintons and The Perfume Shop because she wanted to pay with cash.
As I have said repeatedly in this column, the World Health Organisation has never advised against using cash. So why are businesses using the virus as an excuse to refuse it?
I would have thought that High Street stores need every customer they can get right now.
If you’ve been turned away when trying to pay with cash, write to me at the email address below or Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT. email@example.com