Google Checkout Scam – Update
Allison here. My previous blog about a Google Checkout scam that is successfully targeting a lot of people on Craigslist has gotten a lot of attention from our customers. Many of you have been affected, so I want to share more information on this scam.
Google Checkout (now part of Google Wallet) is a legitimate service, similar to PayPal, although it has gotten a bad rap for being associated with this long-running scam. Users store their credit or debit card and shipping information in their Google Account, so they can purchase at participating stores with just one click (sounds like a security trap, but that’s how it works). This time around we’re going to show you exactly how to tell the legitimate service from a poser, and some examples of legitimate instances where using Google Checkout will be okay.
When it comes to investigating Google Checkout for legitimacy, the best place to look is in the invoice. The scammer will send the invoice as the way to proceed with the purchase, and it comes with all the instructions as to how to make the payment and how the shipment will take place, and has all the red flags for determining the legitimacy of the invoice and the sale. Here’s a screenshot of part of the invoice, where we’ll point out what’s wrong with it:
The biggest red flag here is the use of Western Union. Not only does Google Checkout NOT use Western Union or any other money order service, but it is a direct competitor to Paypal. Google Checkout is payment service, so you should be able to pay for anything using Google Checkout itself. It already has all of your payment information stored, so paying for something should be done with a click of a button. When was the last time you used a money order in conjunction with Paypal? Probably never, because that’s not how it works. Also note the typos in the invoice. If this text is standard invoice text, something that would be found on all invoices from such a huge company (especially one as big as Google), they’d probably have all of those fixed before letting the public see them.
Below is another screenshot from another part of the invoice. Once again, we need to emphasize that Google Checkout is a payment service, as this part of the invoice illustrates services that Google Checkout, or any other payment service, does not offer:
Again, as a payment service, why would Google Checkout specifically offer vehicle purchase protection? That’s something you’d find with a service like Amazon or eBay, both of which actually host the sales and would have a vested interest in the product being sold on their sites. Also consider that as a payment service, Google Checkout does not hold or protect any product as the sale, or hold onto payment while an “inspection” takes place, despite what these scammers may say. This entire paragraph is there to try and to make the victim feel more comfortable about making this purchase without ever seeing the vehicle or talking to the person over the phone or face-to-face. Here’s a link to Google Checkout’s true policies and procedures, as well as their terms and conditions, and you’ll easily see that what’s offered in the screenshot isn’t at all offered in either place. Here’s also their payment guarantee policy, which says nothing specific about purchasing vehicles.
So, when is it a good time to use Google Checkout? Very rarely. First of all, eBay bans the use of Google Checkout as a legitimate use of payment, primarily because eBay owns Paypal. Second of all, Google Checkout is part of Google Wallet and so anyone wanting to use Google’s payment service ought to referencing it as Google Wallet. Third, there are merchants that use Google Checkout/Wallet as part of their online store, and of course, it can be used with other Google services like Google Play. Google Checkout is okay in these cases, especially if the online merchant specifically says they accept Google Wallet and/or have the acceptance logo.
Keep in mind that purchasing a vehicle out of state, even if that person were honestly selling it, is risky business by itself. What isn’t as risky is Google Wallet, but it’s not as ubiquitous as Paypal, so there aren’t as many instances when you would be using it. Someone asking you only to use Google Checkout is not only misinformed, but also a scammer, since Google Checkout is now Google Wallet. Although Google Checkout websites may still be accessible, they explicitly mention the change.