My 13 year old has been scammed with Paypal…it says he owes £4,500

My 14 year old son is being chased by Paypal for a debt of almost £4,500 after being a victim of a scam.

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

Without my knowledge, my son has created two Paypal accounts. You have to be 18 to do this, and when asked, he said he was. He accepts that this was wrong – but I am furious that he was not asked for proof of age, address or ID. These are needed to set up a bank account, so why not a Paypal account?

Shortly after my son was paid for some sample images, the fraudster tricked him into handing over his Paypal logins and password details. He then changed them, which prevented my son from accessing the account.

Fraud victim: A reader's son - who loves gaming - became friends online with someone he thought was a YouTube video star - only to turn out to be a scammer (stock image)

Fraud victim: A reader’s son – who loves gaming – became friends online with someone he thought was a YouTube video star – only to turn out to be a scammer (stock image)

After that, the scammer used my son’s account to purchase various digital products and services, worth thousands of dollars. Once he received them, the fraudster requested chargebacks. By the time my son regained access to his account, Paypal had acknowledged that these chargebacks were fraudulent and wanted the money back – meaning there was a £4,500 debt in my son’s name.

In November, my son burst into tears telling me all this. Since then I have made numerous phone calls, emails, letters and messages to Paypal to try and get this sorted out but the debt still stands.

For two weeks in January, my son received several calls and text messages from a collection agency instructed by Paypal. He was very saddened by them. I have repeatedly provided copies of my son’s passport and birth certificate to Paypal to prove his age, and asked that they only contact me regarding this matter – not him. However, Paypal still kept sending emails to my son about the two accounts.

I am furious at the suffering this has caused my son. I’m also worried it could affect his credit once he turns 18. Can you help? Anonymous, via email

Helen Crane from This is Money replies: Sorry to hear this has happened to your son. Unfortunately, it’s easier than ever to fall victim to online scams – and while they know their way around the internet better than anyone, evidence shows that young people are among the highest risk groups.

You told me that your son, like many teenage boys, loves gaming and sports – and unfortunately it was this enthusiasm that the fraudster preyed on, posing as a popular YouTube video creator and asking him to take some thumbnail images to display on his page to appear.

By the time you found out what was going on, the con artist had already disappeared and your son had nothing but £4,500 in debt.

What is Chargeback Fraud?

Chargeback fraud is when a customer makes a purchase online and then – even though there is nothing wrong with the product – initiates a chargeback from their bank – or Paypal in this case.

They may give false reasons why they ask for the money back. If successful, the transaction will be canceled and the customer will have the money refunded to their account. In the case of a digital product or service, the scammer hopes to get the money, while also getting to keep the product.

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

But in the case of a digital product – that could be a game, video, piece of software or credit to spend on a gambling website, for example – it can be difficult to prove whether the product was ever actually received.

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

Your son didn’t have that kind of money in his Paypal account, so the scammer must have used his own card – or money from other accounts he controlled – to buy these digital products, then requested a fraudulent chargeback once they were received , the money in your pocket.

As soon as Paypal realized what had happened, it wanted the money back, but the scammer was nowhere to be seen.

You have been contacting Paypal for weeks to explain what had happened and to resolve this situation, but to no avail.

This ended in a downright scandalous scenario where your son – since he was 14 – was approached on his mobile phone by collection agencies working on behalf of Paypal.

Thankfully, once you told the collection agency he was underage, you said it immediately stopped pursuing him, though the saga with Paypal itself still continued.

This distressing situation could have been avoided if Paypal had resolved the issue when you first contacted us in November.

Yes, he broke the rules by claiming to be 18. But teens have always lied about their age and always will – whether it’s signing up for a TikTok account (restricted to 13 and older), watching an age-inappropriate movie, or buy a drink in a pub.

And it must have seemed a harmless hoax at the time. All he thought about was finding a way to get paid for his artwork.

Your question as a father is why could this happen?

If a 13-year-old walks into a bank and tries to open an account, he won’t get very far. They would be asked for ID and address and then told to come back with a parent or guardian because they were under 16 – the legal age to get a bank account on their own.

But on Paypal, customers only need to provide basic personal information such as their name and email address.

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

Customers using Paypal also don’t have access to the same protections as regular banks if something goes wrong.

Most major banks have signed up to a voluntary code of conduct, overseen by the Lending Standards Board, that requires them to pay back innocent scam victims in certain scenarios – but Paypal isn’t.

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

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

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

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

You’ve also experienced Paypal’s customer service as poor – and it seems many people agree with you. On Trustpilot, 72 percent of Paypal UK reviews are one star.

Specifically, you say that you repeatedly asked Paypal employees to contact you, rather than your teenage son, about this debt, but your son continued to receive messages about it.

This was because your son’s case was looked at by two different teams at Paypal and some messages were sent automatically rather than by a real person – a system that almost never works well in my opinion.

All in all, you were really unimpressed with the way you and your son had been treated by Paypal, and the persistent refusal to stop pursuing your son for a debt he didn’t accrue.


In our weekly column, This is Money consumer expert Helen Crane examines reader problems and shines a light on companies that are doing both well and badly.

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It wasn’t until I contacted Paypal that it finally agreed to settle the debt on your son’s accounts, which are now closed.

A spokesman said: ‘Paypal acknowledges the distress and inconvenience to the family [of this reader] because of this problem.

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

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

You have told me that you are not happy with this response and the fact that Paypal has still not apologized to you or your son for what happened.

I have therefore asked whether Paypal would compensate you for the suffering your son has suffered; money you said you would donate to the Scope charity. It refused.

Finally, I asked if your son had ever had a credit check or if a credit file had been opened. Paypal confirmed that this was not the case as this is not possible for anyone under the age of 18. At least this means that your son’s future finances will not be affected by this regrettable episode.

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

It’s not Paypal’s fault your son got scammed, but the lack of proper age checks on the platform means more young people could become vulnerable to this nasty chargeback fraud.

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