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Victim loses $24,000 in car-buying scam

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GILBERT, AZ (CBS5) -

This was not a very Merry Christmas for one Gilbert woman who a scammer "took" for more than $20,000.

Her plan to buy an expensive gift went terribly wrong because she wasn't familiar with how phishing scams work.

Phishing scams have been around for awhile now, but they're still new to some people - especially seniors who are just learning how to use the internet.

No matter where a phishing scam begins it always ends with the con man wanting you to take two actions.

If you know what they are, you really can't become a victim, but if you don't you're a perfect target.

"I'm just completely devastated," Diane Booth said.

For Booth, this was the worst Christmas ever. She wanted to give her daughter an expensive, but badly-needed gift - a car - and found an ad for one in the Arizona Republic.

"She said she was Emma Dubois, she had recently got divorced and moved to Prince George Canada. She had this Lexus that was in mint condition that she wanted to sell," Booth said.

Booth received plenty of pictures and even service records. The seller accepted Booth's $24,500 offer but had one condition: the transaction had to go through Google.

"I would wire money into a Google Wallet account, and it would be held until I received the car, and up to three days after I received the car," Booth said.

Even though Google Wallet allows credit cards, Booth said the seller insisted on a money wire to a specific California location.

"She just said the money needed to be wired to that bank and that was all she said, there was no other way to do the transaction," Booth said.

Booth didn't go directly to the Google Wallet site. She clicked on a link the seller emailed her. But that link didn't take her to Google Wallet, it took her to a fake site that's hard to tell from the real thing. Booth said she wired the money and got a confirmation that the car would arrive in Arizona on Dec. 9.

"I waited all afternoon. And then I started phoning the numbers and, of course, nobody answered - it was all voicemails," Booth said.

The whole thing was a scam and the seller was a con man. There was no car, but the $24,000 Booth lost was real.

"I guess I was a novice at this whole thing and I was too gullible, believing people, I didn't realize how much fraud is done," said Booth.

Here's what Booth did wrong:

First, she clicked on a link in an email from a stranger. If she would have typed in the address to Google Wallet herself - she would have seen that they had nothing to do with this transaction. You can only be diverted to a fake site if you click on the link.

Second, and much worse, she wired money to a stranger. No legitimate business transaction is ever conducted by money wire. Money wires are only used by people who know each other very well personally and by scam artists. Scammers can't win without money being wired; never do it.

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