Online marketplaces have made it easier to unload your old stuff. Setting up an account is easy, and it can all be done from the comfort of your home. Even if you work full time, you can sell stuff as a side gig. Who doesn’t like a little extra income?
Unfortunately, any online activity puts you at risk for scams. You have to provide at least some personal information for your account, and in general, it shouldn’t go beyond that. One seller on OfferUp was asked for her phone number. The buyer seemed legitimate, and she handed it over. The scammer used this information to create a Google Voice account with the victim’s number. Tap or click here for more on the story.
Our coverage of the above scam caught the attention of a member of Kim Komando’s audience, who was targeted by a similar scam. Keep reading to avoid falling victim to these scams.
Here’s the backstory
David from North Carolina called into Kim’s radio show and asked about the Google Voice scam. He sells items on Facebook Marketplace and said that potential buyers have recently asked for his phone number. David then got a text from a Google app that prompted him to enter a 6-digit code.
Luckily, David didn’t fall for it.
Here’s a screenshot of someone asking for his phone number:
How the Google Voice scam works
There are many benefits to keeping a Google Voice account. If you need to switch phone providers, you can port your old number to Google Voice so people can still contact you there.
You can also send select calls straight to voicemail and record calls. And hey, isn’t it better to have a different number to give out to businesses and strangers? Tap or click here for more on how Google Voice can make your life easier.
So Google Voice can be a good thing, but only when you are the one creating your account. A scammer who has your number can use it to create their own Voice account. You’ll get a text asking for a verification code, and if you hand it over, someone else now has an account linked to your number.
The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that 49% of the 1,824 victim cases it received in August were Google Voice scams. It has targeted victims on various platforms, including LetGo, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
How to stop it
If you fell for this scam, you can get out of it. Since Google Voice only allows one account per phone number, you can reclaim your Voice number if someone else uses it. Here’s how:
- Go to voice.google.com on your computer.
- Click the settings gear icon in the top-right corner.
- Click New linked number under Linked numbers.
- Enter your phone number.
- Click Send code to get a six-digit number sent to your mobile phone. If your landline number was stolen, click verify by phone, then call.
- Enter the code and click Verify.
- Click Claim.
Let’s say you don’t give out the verification code. You still gave the scammer your phone number, and they can use it in other ways, such as finding out more information about you. The bottom line is don’t give out your number to strangers, including your customers.
If you fall victim to such a scam or are suspicious of someone’s motives, contact the ITRC at 888-400-5530 or chat with a representative at idtheftcenter.org. You should also report the scam to the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov.