PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – If you’ve tried to sell anything 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.
This can happen when you post an item for sale on popular sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or OfferUp. Scammers will pretend to be a buyer and text you saying they’re interested, but they say they’re worried you’re a scammer.
A verification code then appears on your screen, and they ask you to read the code so they know you are legit. “What they’re really trying to do is create a Google Voice account tied to your phone number without you knowing about it,” 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 this verification code to the scammer, they can set up a Google Voice number that rings their phone, but under your name and real number. “In this case, they can pretend to be you, use a legitimate number,” Colburn said. “And again, they could probably find out more about you as an individual, so they could really do a good job impersonating you.”
And pretending to be you is not good. The scammer can run a number of scams, even posting fake advertisements online, and he can talk with his victims on the phone without fear of getting caught. “And if someone tracks it down instead of finding the bad guys, they’ll come back to you saying, ‘Hey, why were you involved in this fraudulent transaction? “, said Colburn.
So how do you avoid becoming a victim? To begin, do not respond or reveal the verification code sent to you.
Colburn says there’s something you can do today to stop these scammers in their tracks. “The best way to thwart this particular scam is to get your own Google Voice account, which is free,” he said. “It will be linked to your phone. And then if they try to scam you using a Google Voice account, it won’t work because Google will say no, it’s already a Google number.
Having this secondary phone number can be useful. If you want 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 unwanted calls, just deactivate that number and get a new one for free.
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