Don’t let a Google Wallet car buying scam empty your real wallet

January 23, 2014

Looking for a car online? Beware of con artists who want to take you for a ride. Bogus vehicle sales have been going around for a while, using online classified ads to bait people with “too good to be true” prices only to steal their money. Another twist on that scam uses a false affiliation with Google.

These scammers mislead people into believing their transaction is being conducted through Google Wallet–while payment is actually made by wire transfer, untraceable and gone forever.

The seller may post an unrealistically low price and claim he needs to sell the car quickly because of an upcoming move, a divorce, a call to serve in the military, etc.

The seller will send an invoice that appears to be from Google Wallet, but will instruct you to make some kind of wire payment, through Western Union, Moneygram or bank transfer. They may also have a phone number for a fake Google employee that you can call to “verify” that the transaction is legitimate.

A real Google Wallet transaction will require you to sign into your Google account and use the Google Wallet interface to make the payment. Google Wallet doesn’t accept wire transfers/bank transfers or payments via Western Union/Money Gram.

Some scammers may also use Google Wallet’s previous name Google Checkout.

BBB offers the following tips for online car shopping:

  • Check the vehicle’s priceBefore buying a car, check out a similar make and model’s price on other websites. If the price is way below market value, it’s probably a scam.
  • Communicate with the seller. If a seller refuses to meet in person, this is a bad sign. Sellers should also allow the buyer to inspect the vehicle before making payment.
  • Be careful with the transactionBe cautious of transactions in which the seller and the vehicle are in different locations. The seller may claim they are not able to take the car along because of military deployment, moving because of family circumstances, or job relocation. Scammers also try to push for quick payments via wire payment systems, so never send money using this payment method.
  • Check the vehicle identification numberWhen you check out the car, make sure the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) matches with the number on the paperwork. The VIN can be found on the car’s dashboard on the driver’s side of the vehicle. Make sure the VIN number on the card matches the number on the insurance card, insurance policy and vehicle title and registration.