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I first heard about PayPal

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2000

I first heard about PayPal a while ago and didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it at the time. All the talk about it lately has me thinking, though. No, not thinking about the pros and cons of micropayments and the possible uses of PayPal…but thinking about how the system can be exploited. Here’s what I came up with:

A PayPal chain letter. Here’s how it works. You get an email. It contains some instructions, a list of 4 email addresses, and a referrer link to the PayPal page with the sender’s email address associated with it. You click on the link and open an account. You get $5 for opening an account, as does the person who sent you the email. Next, you send each of the 4 people on the list $0.50 each. Then, you modify the chain letter, delete the top email address, move the sender’s email from the link to the list, add your email to the referrer link, and email the letter to 5 or 10 friends who have not yet signed up with PayPal. If all goes well, you should be getting a ton of $0.50 micropayments deposited into your account within days.

The best thing about it is that PayPal foots the bill for the whole thing…effectively, they are the bottom rung of a chain letter. Of course, this sort of thing is prohibited by PayPal’s terms of use. Oh well.