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My 13-year-old was scammed on Paypal… it says he owes £4,500

Victim of fraud: A reader's son - who loves games - befriended someone online who he thought was a Youtube video star - but turned out to be a scammer ( stock picture)

My 14 year old son is being sued by Paypal for a debt of almost £4500 after being scammed.

In September 2022, at the age of 13, he befriended someone online claiming to be a well-known Youtuber who makes videos about games and football. We now believe he was not the real Youtuber, but a scammer impersonating him. He asked my son if he could design some pictures to use on his Youtube channel, saying he would pay for it.

Unbeknownst to me, my son has created two Paypal accounts. You have to be 18 to do it, and when asked he said he was. He admits it was fake – but I’m furious that he wasn’t asked for any proof of age, address or identity. These are needed to open a bank account, so why not a Paypal account?

Shortly after my son was paid for some sample images, the scammer tricked him into giving him his Paypal IDs and passwords. He then changed them, excluding my son from the account.

Victim of fraud: A reader's son - who loves games - befriended someone online who he thought was a Youtube video star - but turned out to be a scammer ( stock picture)

Victim of fraud: A reader’s son – who loves games – befriended someone online who he thought was a Youtube video star – but turned out to be a scammer ( stock picture)

After that, the scammer used my son’s account to purchase several digital products and services, worth several thousand. Once he received them, the fraudster then requested chargebacks. By the time my son regained access to his account Paypal had recognized that these chargebacks were fraudulent and wanted the money back – meaning there was a £4500 debt in my son’s name.

In November, my son burst into tears and told me all this. Since then I have made countless calls, emails, letters and messages to Paypal to try to sort this out, but the debt is still there.

For two weeks in January, my son received several calls and text messages from a collection company commissioned by Paypal. He was extremely distressed. I repeatedly provided copies of my son’s passport and birth certificate to Paypal to prove his age, and asked that they only contact me about it – not him. However Paypal kept emailing my son about both accounts.

I am furious at the distress this has caused my son. I’m also worried that it will affect his credit rating once he turns 18. Can you help me ? Anonymous, by e-mail

Helen Crane of This is Money responds: I’m so sorry to hear this happened to your son. It’s unfortunately easier than ever to fall victim to an online scam – and although they know the web better than anyone, evidence shows that young people are among the most at risk.

You told me that, like many teenagers, your son loves games and sports – and unfortunately it’s this enthusiasm that the scammer has fed off of, posing as a popular Youtube video creator and him asking to show thumbnail images on their page.

By the time you found out what was going on, the scammer had already disappeared and left your son only £4,500 in debt.

What is Chargeback Fraud?

Chargeback fraud occurs when a customer makes an online purchase and then – although there is no problem with the product – initiates a chargeback from their bank – or in this case, Paypal.

They may give false reasons for asking for a refund. If successful, this cancels the transaction and the customer gets the money back to their account. In the case of a digital product or service, the scammer hopes to get the money, while keeping the product.

Chargebacks are meant to be used as consumer protection when a product or service has not been delivered as promised and the retailer who sold it is not helpful.

But in the case of a digital product – which could be a game, video, software or credits to be spent on a gambling site, for example – it can be difficult to prove whether the product has been received.

In this case, Paypal was trying to recover the money for the fraudulent chargeback – hence the £4,500 debt appearing on our reader’s son’s account.

Your son didn’t have that kind of money in his Paypal account, so the scammer had to use his own card — or money transferred from other accounts he controlled — to purchase those digital goods, then asked for a fraudulent chargeback once they were received, pocketing the money.

Once Paypal realized what had happened they wanted to get the money back but the scammer was nowhere to be found.

You have spent weeks contacting PayPal to explain what happened and to try to resolve this situation, but to no avail.

It ended with a frankly outrageous scenario where your son – since he was 14 – was contacted on his cell phone by debt collectors working on behalf of Paypal.

Luckily, once you tell the debt collection company he was underage, you say they immediately stopped pursuing him, although the saga with Paypal continues.

This painful situation could have been avoided if Paypal had solved the problem during your first contact in November.

Yes, he broke the rules by pretending to be 18. But teenagers have always lied about their age, and always will – whether it’s to sign up for a TikTok account (limited to 13+), watch an age-inappropriate movie, or buy a drink in a pub. .

And it must have sounded like a harmless lie at the time. All he was doing, in his mind, was finding a way to get paid for his works.

Your question as a father is, why could this have happened?

If a 13-year-old walked into a bank and tried to open an account, he wouldn’t get very far. They would be asked for proof of identity and address and then told to return with a parent or guardian as they were under 16 – the legal age to open a bank account independently.

But Paypal is not considered a bank, so customers only need to provide basic personal information such as their name and email address.

People who sign up for Paypal are asked for their date of birth, but to get through, they can just lie. Being under 18 violates the terms and conditions of the site and if Paypal finds out that someone using an account is under 18, the account will be frozen but, of course, that’s not always discovered.

Not being a bank also means that customers using Paypal don’t have access to the same protections in case something goes wrong.

Most major banks have signed up to a voluntary code of conduct, overseen by the Lending Standards Board, which requires them to reimburse victims of scams beyond reproach in certain scenarios – but Paypal is not.

Paypal users are also generally not covered by Section 75 purchase protection when paying by credit card.

Point of difference: Paypal is not subject to the same codes of conduct as the big banks

Point of difference: Paypal is not subject to the same codes of conduct as the big banks

You also found Paypal’s customer service to be poor – and it seems like a lot of people agree with you. On Trustpilot, 72% of Paypal UK reviews are one-star.

In particular, you say you repeatedly asked Paypal staff to contact you, rather than your teenage son, about this debt, but your son continued to receive messages about it.

This is because your son’s case was being reviewed by two different teams at Paypal, and some of the messages were sent automatically, rather than by an actual person – a system which I believe almost never works well.

Overall, you weren’t impressed with the way you and your son were treated by Paypal, and their persistent refusal to stop suing your son for a debt he didn’t accrue.


In our weekly column, This is Money consumer expert Helen Crane tackles readers’ pain points and shines a light on companies doing good and bad.

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It wasn’t until I contacted Paypal that they finally agreed to clear the debt on your son’s accounts, which have now been closed.

A spokesperson said: ‘Paypal recognizes the distress and inconvenience caused to the family [of this reader] by this problem.

“People must be at least 18 years old to open a Paypal account and use Paypal services. New customers are asked to declare their age when opening an account.

‘Paypal clears the full amount of debt, has closed both accounts and confirms that this incident will not affect [his son’s] ability to obtain credit after reaching the age of 18.

You told me you weren’t happy with this response, and that Paypal still hasn’t apologized to you or your son for what happened.

So I asked if Paypal would compensate you for the inconvenience caused to your son; the money you said you would donate to the disability charity Scope. He refused.

Finally, I asked if a credit check had ever been done on your son, or if a credit file had been opened. Paypal has confirmed this is not the case as this is not possible for anyone under 18. At least that means your son’s future finances won’t be affected by this sad episode.

Nevertheless, you remain frustrated that this was only resolved through my intervention – and that your son was able to get a Paypal account without your knowledge or consent.

It’s not Paypal’s fault that your son has been scammed – but the lack of proper age checks on their platform means more young people could be left vulnerable to these nasty chargeback scams.

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