3OYS reveals wiring scam involving Google Wallet

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Deborah Roberts is disabled but manages to get around. Still, she needs reliable transportation to get to and from her doctors' appointments.

"I have an appointment probably once a week," Roberts explained. "It depends on if I go see a neurologist or if it's just my pain doctor or regular doctor."

Roberts' current vehicle is getting up in miles, and she thought it might be a wise idea to start looking around. So, like many people, she turned to the popular website Craigslist to see what was out there, and that's when she came across a beauty -- a 2004 Ford F-150 with only 21,000. The price was only $2,600.

Roberts says, "So, I emailed her instantly and I'm like, 'Was there a mistake?'" Roberts recalled. "She says, 'No, I got it in a divorce and I just want it out of my way.'"

With a price like that, Roberts says she jumped at the deal. And the good news, according to the seller, is that the transaction would go through a third party known as Google Wallet to keep them -- both of them -- from being ripped off.

"She was saying, 'Google's going to be the middle man. You're going to give them the money and they'll hold on to it. I'll ship you the truck,'" Roberts said.

Roberts agreed and says Google Wallet later emailed her with an invoice and told her to wire them $2,600 to hold for the purchase of the truck. Roberts went to a Fry's and, using the Western Union inside, tried to wire the money. The employees at the counter actually tried to stop her.

"They even gave me a hard time," Roberts explained. "They said, 'We've had a lot of fraud out of Illinois. Do you know you're not being scammed?' And I'm like, 'Yeah, yeah. No, it's OK.'"

Roberts says she should have listened because after wiring the $2,600, that beautiful, shiny blue truck never arrived.

But what about Google Wallet, the escrow account where the money was to be kept safe?

Well, Google Wallet does exist and is legitimate, but, it's mainly for small retail purchases and not used for car transactions at all. Google Wallet also does not engage in accepting wired funds. Google warns consumers about this.

"If the seller requests payment through a wire transfer, money transfer services such as Western Union or Moneygram, or direct bank transfers, it's likely fraudulent," the warning reads. "Google Wallet does NOT support these payment methods."

Roberts now realizes she was caught up in an elaborate scheme where the scammer posed as a seller and as Google Wallet.

For Roberts, it's an expensive lesson.

"If you can't see it tangibly and touch it and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is," she said.

3 On Your Side warns consumers to never wire funds to anyone you don't personally know. Wiring money is just like sending cash. There is really no protection and once it's gone, you have no recourse.