Watch out for this new scam on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist

BOSTON — The Federal Trade Commission is warning of a verification scam targeting people who sell items on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. The FTC calls it the Google Voice scam and say it can lead to someone using your phone number to conceal their identity and rip off other people.

Here’s how it works: The scammer sends you a message letting you know they’re interested in buying your item. They may message you a phone number and ask you to text them. Then they’ll say they’re hesitant to proceed because they’ve heard about fake online listings. They want to verify you’re a real person and in order to confirm your post is legitimate, they’ll send you a six-digit Google Voice verification code.

“If your post is real, send me the code, then I’ll call,” one scammer texted.

By sending back that code, the FTC says what you’re really doing is helping the scammer set up a Google Voice number linked to your phone number.

“So, what’s the harm? The scammer might use that number to rip off other people and conceal their identity. Sometimes these scammers are after a Google Voice verification code and other information about you. If they get enough of your information, they could pretend to be you to access your accounts or open new accounts in your name,” according to the FTC website.

Fortunately, Google has an easy process for reclaiming your number if you fall victim.

“This is a multi-step scam,” said Caleb Barlow, a cyber-security consultant in Newburyport. “The [scammer is] now going to use that voice account to either make robocalls or purport a fraud to someone else, maybe a phishing scheme. What’s so unique about this is that you’re just one link in the chain of building this overall fraud.”

Two points to remember when selling something on Facebook Marketplace:

  • Communicate with a potential buyer and complete your sale within Facebook Messenger--there’s no reason to give anyone your phone number
  • Never respond to a security prompt you didn’t first initiate

“The fraudsters have just pivoted. They’ve become more sophisticated. In this case, they’re actually leveraging the fact that we trust who we’re interacting with on Facebook more to purport a crime,” Barlow said.

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