Scammers infiltrate local online marketplaces to hijack sellers’ phones

A new scam targets people who sell items online through platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji to take over their phone number and online accounts.

Kristin Matthews, spokeswoman for the Atlantic region’s Better Business Bureau, said there were multiple stages to the scam.

First, she says, the seller is contacted by someone who says they are interested in buying the item being sold immediately to create a sense of urgency.

The person posing as a buyer will ask the seller for their phone number – ironically saying they’ve already been scammed online and want reassurance the seller is genuine, Matthews said.

Don’t give the code

Once they have the seller’s phone number, the person impersonating the buyer will then secretly register a Google Voice account which will generate an automated response with a six-digit verification code on the seller’s phone, said Matthews at CBC Radio. maritime noon guest host Brett Ruskin.

But the scammer tells the seller that it is a verification code sent by the scammer, and he asks the seller to read it again as “confirmation”.

The scammers are hoping the rushed seller doesn’t notice that the number is from Google, or at least doesn’t question it and give them the code. This gives the scammer access to other online accounts and he can use the seller’s phone number for other scams.

Google Voice acts as a line phone and can make domestic and international calls and send text messages, according to Google’s support page for the service.

“Now that they have your phone number linked to their Google Voice account, they can actually run scams through your phone number, so they can impersonate you and use that phone number for very harmful,” Matthews said.

“They could actually hack into your Facebook account or your Google account.”

Matthews said the Better Business Bureau has noticed the scam is also happening in local online buy-and-sell groups, which she describes as “a little scarier.”

She said that because people assume that other members of these local groups are members of the community or even neighbors they trust the most.

Groups of lost animals

Another variant of the scam, Matthews said, takes place in Facebook groups for lost animals.

In these cases, she says, scammers tell the pet’s owner that they’ve found their missing pet and ask for their phone number to make sure they’re the true owner. They then do the verification code scam by preying on the pet’s emotional owner.

Matthews said people selling their items in online marketplaces should watch out for red flags; for example, someone asks for your phone number. Another red flag is if the buyer is in a great rush to get the item.

Communicating only within the online platform and not by phone or text message is important, Matthews said, because it offers a better chance of recourse if something goes wrong.

On its support page for Google Voice, the company says it’s important never to share the verification code it sends with anyone. Even Google employees won’t ask for the code.

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