Online buy-and-sell platforms are a great way to snag a bargain or offload some of your unwanted stuff, but it seems like scammers are working overtime to come up with convoluted ways to part you from your hard-earned dollars.
TikToker Michel Janse is warning of a scam that happened to her recently, where an opportunistic Facebook Marketplace fraudster used Google Voice in an attempt to trick her during a furniture sale.
In her video, which she uploaded to TikTok and has received more than 1.3 million views, Janse explains that she was selling some furniture on Marketplace when she received a message from an interested buyer.
Janse said she looked over the woman’s profile — something she normally does as part of a “vibe check” — and then messaged her back to coordinate the sale.
“Before co-ordinating pick up details, for my safety, I just want to confirm that you’re a real person,” Janse alleges the woman wrote back, before asking that they connect over Google Voice, a technology that allows people to place phone calls to each other through the web.
Janse admits that the request felt odd, but she ultimately agreed and gave the woman her number.
She then received a text with a Google Voice code, which the buyer asked Janse to relay to her. It was only after Janse gave her the code that she realized she’d been scammed.
In this case, the buyer was a fraudster who had used Janse’s number to create a Google Voice number linked to it, all with the aim of scamming other people.
But according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the scammer was likely after more than just a phone number.
“If they get enough of your information, they could pretend to be you to access your accounts or open new accounts in your name,” the FTC warns on its website, detailing how the Google Voice scam is used to rip people off.
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The FTC says this scam is not new — it was one of the top-reported scams in 2022 — and that it’s commonly used on sites like Marketplace or Craigslist. It’s also been used to target people who have lost their pets.
“But before they commit to buying your item, or returning your pet, they feign hesitation. They might say they’ve heard about fake online listings and want to verify that you’re a real person. Or they might say they want to verify that you’re the pet’s true owner,” the FTC warns.
“No matter what the story is, don’t share your Google Voice verification code — or any verification code — with someone if you didn’t contact them first. That’s a scam, every time.”
For those who have already been scammed, there are steps to reclaim your Google Voice number — steps that Janse says she took after realizing what had happened.
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