Easy Online Targets

With eBay, Craigslist, NextDoor, and Facebook Marketplace, online selling has gotten easier and offers a broader audience reach now more than ever before. With that ease comes new risks. Recently, an old phishing scam has gotten some new life.

Here is how the scam works:

1. You place your personal telephone number (mobile or landline) out in public (sales ad, dating site, etc.).

2. The scammer contacts you via text or email about your ad. They tell you some story about how they need you to prove that you are a real person, or a legitimate seller, not a bot, and that they are using Google Verification. The verification will be sent to you as an automated special code from Google. 

3. The scammer is, in reality, going through the Google Voice setup process. They tell Google Voice to call/text your personal number and provide a verification code. Google sends the code, along with a warning to not share the code with anyone. Somehow, you ignore the explicit warning and give the scammer the code number. When you do that, THEY, not you, are issued a Google Voice number, using YOUR number as the forwarding number for their account.

4. By the time you realize what has happened, if you do at all, the scammer has already removed your forwarding phone number from their account. Their goal is not to forward calls to your personal phone number, but merely to use it as an “admission ticket” to get their own Google Voice number, use it to scam others, get rid of that number and clean their trails, then repeat the scam over and over.

Now, this is normally not a scam that will cost you money or directly cause harm to you. However, it is also not something that you’d want to fall for. In most cases, the whole idea behind this scam is that the scammers would be able to get a free and fresh-new Google Voice number which they can then use in other scams and similar nefarious activities. In most cases, the end user would not get directly affected and/or involved in any of that. However, such a possibility is still present and should not be ignored. The very notion that some anonymous cyber crook is using your personal phone number for their illegal activities should be enough of a reason to take immediate action.

It is important that you be cautious of fraud when interacting with strangers on online sites. Online sites are frequent targets of scammers. Never, ever share verification codes with anyone. No legitimate business will ask for that information. When putting yourself “out there,” just be cautious and smart about what you divulge. Now, get out there and sell that velvet clown painting that’s been in your attic for the last 25 years!

Granville Loar – 9.9.19