“Google Voice Scam” targeting people selling items online

One of the biggest scams isn’t after your money — it’s after your identity.
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 5:30 PM MST|Updated: Sep. 22, 2022 at 6:31 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - If you’ve tried to sell something online, you know there are a lot of scammers out there looking to take your money. But one of the biggest scams isn’t after your money — it’s after your identity.

It can happen when you post an item for sale on popular sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or OfferUp. Scammers will pose as a buyer and text you saying they’re interested, but they say they’re concerned that you’re a scammer.

A verification code then pops up on your screen, and they ask you to read off the code so they know you’re legit. “What they’re really trying to do is set up a Google Voice account tied to your phone number without you knowing,” said Ken Colburn of Data Doctors.

He tells On Your Side that Google Voice works as a secondary phone line for your phone. If you give the scammer that verification code, they can set up a Google Voice number that rings on their phone, but it’s under your name and your real number. “In this case they can pretend like they’re you, use a legitimate number,” said Colburn. “And again, they could probably learn more about you as an individual, so they could really do a good job of posing as you.”

And posing as you is not good. The scammer can run any number of scams, even posting fake ads online, and they can talk with their victims on the phone with little fear of getting caught. “And if somebody traces it back instead of finding the bad guys, they’re going to come back to you saying, ‘Hey, why were you involved in this fraudulent transaction?’” said Colburn.

So, how do you avoid becoming a victim? For starters, don’t respond and don’t reveal the verification code you’ve been sent.

Colburn says there’s something you can do today that will stop these scammers in their tracks. “The best way to thwart this particular scam is to actually go and get your own Google Voice account, which is free,” he said. “It’ll tie back to your phone. And then if they try to do this scam to you using a Google Voice account, it won’t work because Google will say no, that’s already a Google number.”

Having that secondary phone number can come in handy. If you like to protect your number, you can give out that Google Voice number for things like dinner reservations or online orders. If you start getting too many spam calls, just deactivate that number and get a new one for free.