Selling items on an online marketplace like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace can be an easy way to make extra money and get rid of things you don’t need. However, the Better Business Bureau warns, scammers are using a clever trick to target sellers and set up a phone number in their name.
How the scam works
You list an item and get an immediate response from a potential buyer. The “buyer” claims to be very interested in your item but wants to make sure you are legitimate first.
The scammer asks for a phone number so that he or she can text you a verification code. The scammer then asks you to reply with the six-digit code on the platform where your item is listed.
Sounds reasonable, right?
But the scammer is actually setting up a Google Voice number linked to your phone number. If you send the verification code, the scammer will be able to complete the account setup. Then, the scammer can use that phone number to conceal his or her identity.
Or, if a scammer gets your Google Voice verification code and other information about you, he or she can pretend to be you and open new accounts in your name.
One seller told the BBB about his experience listing an item on Facebook Marketplace and getting a response from an interested buyer.
“He asked if he could call/text me,” the seller said. “Then, I agreed and he said, ‘OK, first I want to verify you. If you’re real, I will trust and meet you. Can I send the verification code to your phone number?’”
At that point, the seller got suspicious and asked if it was a scam. He didn’t hear from the scammer again.
Preventing the scam
There are ways to avoid this scam.
• Guard your personal information. You don’t need to give someone your phone number to make a sale on an online marketplace. Be sure you know who you are speaking with before you share it. Never give out your phone number in public social media posts.
• Watch out for red flags. Avoid making transactions with people who offer you deals that sound too good to be true (for example, overpaying for an item you listed for sale) or people who pressure you to make a deal quickly.
• Understand marketplace policies. Most online marketplaces encourage you not to take transactions outside of the platform. If someone asks you to carry out transactions elsewhere, be wary. Understand how the platform you use verifies both sellers and buyers – and stick to its guidelines when selling and buying items.
For more tips, read the BBB article on such scams at tinyurl.com/f9s8bdv7.
If you’ve spotted a scam – whether or not you’ve lost money – report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker.