Hacked PayPal accounts tripled in value during pandemic

PayPal application icon on Apple iPhone smartphone screen
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Security researchers have discovered that the value of hacked PayPal accounts have spiked by 293% during the pandemic, almost tripling in a matter of months.

In an analysis of listings on 13 dark web marketplaces, researchers at pro-consumer website Comparitech found criminals were paying around 9.2 cents for every dollar in a hacked PayPal account. This is compared to a similar study conducted eight months prior, when buyers spent an average of 3.13 cents per dollar in the account.

The researchers found the average price of a PayPal account across all the marketplaces we examined was $196.50, with an average account balance of $2,133.61.

PayPal accounts have different tiers. Researchers found that individual accounts cost $161.59 on average and had an average account balance of $1,732.85, or 9.32 cents per dollar. Premier accounts, on the other hand, cost $186.31 on average and had an average balance of $2, 029.95,or 9.18 cents per dollar.

Business accounts were even more valuable, costing an average of $246 and carrying an average balance of $2,684.29, equating to 9.18 cents per dollar.

This contrasted with credit cards, including the credit card number, CVV, expiration date, cardholder name and postal code, which sell for $17.36 on average. While researchers said this is double the average price recorded from earlier this year, its value is decreasing.


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Previously, cyber criminals would pay out 0.42 cents for every dollar on the stolen card. Today, they pay 0.33 cents per dollar, or 306 times the price of the stolen card.

The report said the average price of a cloned, physical card is $171, or 5.75 cents per dollar of credit limit. Researchers noted there was a positive correlation between a cloned card’s credit limit and its price. The correlation was less strong but still apparent in sales of credit card details. The average credit limit on the listings researchers examined was $2,980.

The researcher also looked at the average price for cloned copies of each major brand of credit card to find out which types of credit cards are worth the most to criminals. MasterCard was worth the most at 6.47 cents per dollar, then Discover at 6.27 cents per dollar, Visa at 5.75 cents per dollar, and American Express at 5.13 cents per dollar.

Researchers said that while brand was one consideration, other factors can contribute to a higher price on the dark web, such as whether the product is a physical card (usually cloned) or digital (just the number and other information on the card), the expiration date (newer cards are more likely to be valid), and credit limit.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.