PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – There are so many new ways to make payments online, and as technology evolves, so do a con artists' tactics.
Scammers are seizing on brand names you trust like Google and Amazon to rip you off.
When it happened to college student Alma Hoyos, she decided to "Call Christina" to warn others.
"I called because I was scammed," she said.
Hoyos wanted to use her tax return to surprise her fiancé with a brand new truck. She spotted a steal of a deal online -- a 2001 Dodge Ram 2500 for just $2,000.
According to Edmunds.com, the make and model she was being offered would fetch upward of $16,000.
The "seller" told Hoyos she was selling it for cheap because she had recently divorced, was moving and wanted to "get rid of it."
Hoyos said she texted, emailed and even spoke with the seller, who sent her several pictures of the truck and then told her she could buy it via Google Wallet.
"It seemed pretty legit," said Hoyos, who researched the payment app.
She even received an invoice with Google Wallet's logo.
Google Wallet is legitimate, but it is an app for peer-to-peer payments, not for purchases, explained a Google spokeswoman.
The bogus Google checkout invoice told Hoyos to buy the truck using Amazon gift cards.
She then received an email from a "Google Wallet Financial Department" telling her that the payment was being processed. Another email claimed the truck would soon be shipped.
"The three days passed," explained Hoyos. "I never got the truck."
That's when she realized that she'd been conned.
She was asked to send a picture of the back of the gift cards. After scratching off the pin label, she then followed instructions to snap a picture of the back of the gift cards and the purchase receipt.
When she went to the store from where she bought them, she was told that the gift cards had been used, explained Hoyos,
"I was like, 'What?" she said. "I don't have the truck. I don't have the money."
Hoyos said she called Vazquez to warn others.
The Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning about fraudsters using Amazon gift cards as way to scam you out of money.
"If a merchant other than Amazon.com asks you to pay using an Amazon gift card, it's probably a scam," wrote Nicole Vincent Fleming, a Federal Trade Commission Consumer education specialist on a blog post on the federal agency's website. "In fact, Amazon's gift card terms don't allow you to use Amazon gift cards to make payments anywhere besides Amazon.com and a few specific sites."
According to Google's support website, a legitimate Google Wallet transaction will require that you sign in to your Google Account and execute the payment using the Google Wallet interface. Google Wallet does not accept wire transfers/bank transfers or payments via Western Union/MoneyGram, nor does it use any escrow type of payment.
Google Wallet used to be called Google Checkout, and some scammers still use the Checkout logo and trademarks in their emails and other communications.
Here are some additional tips for safer shopping and recognizing scams:
- Google Checkout currently supports payments made by credit or debit cards only. If a seller suggests you can pay via wire or bank transfer with your Checkout account, don’t proceed with the transaction; it’s likely fraudulent.
- Scammers may reference the terms “Verified Google Checkout Agent,” “Regional Manager,” “Purchase Protection Account,” or some other form of escrow account in their spoofed invoice. None of these terms are used on Checkout.
- Scammers may request high dollar transactions to be broken down into smaller payments, sometimes with each payment going to a different person.
- The price of the goods you are interested in purchasing seems too good to be true, or the seller claims to have the new hot item that is sold out everywhere else.