Another day, another scam. Fraudsters have established a new way to exploit users, in a very tricky and well-thought scam involving Craigslist and Google Voice.
Google Voice Craigslist Scam: How Does It Happen?
The scam was recently reported by ABC11 who were contacted by a viewer who got scammed. Apparently, the viewer stumbled upon the scam in an attempt to sell baby equipment. He posted an ad on Craigslist , and shortly after that he received requests for the item.
In the first text, the supposed buyer agreed to pay cash, but to make sure the post is not fake, the buyer texted he wanted to send a Google code to the phone number listed on the ad, ABC11 reports. After the buyer sent this code, the ABC11 viewer received texts from Google phone service, also known as Google Voice. The text contained a six-digit code. So, where is the catch?
If you give the verification code to the supposed buyer, they could use the code as well as your phone number (taken from the ad) to get their own free Google phone number. This number could be used in suspicious and scam activities, without you ever learning about it. Another dangerous outcome is that scammers could get access to your Google account, in case they have enough information.
This is what the scam is, as summarized by Platinum Product Expert Bluescat on Support.google.com:
1. You put your own personal telephone number (mobile or landline number) out in public somewhere (on a classified ad, or a dating website, or wherever).
2. Some scammer contacts you via text or email about your ad. They tell you a story about how they need you to prove you are real person, or a legitimate seller, not a bot, and that they are using a special phone service that requires that you give them the six-digit code number that will be played to you by an automated verification call or text message you will receive from Google.
3. The scammer is, in reality, going through the Google Voice setup process. They tell Google Voice to call your personal number, and then the call speaks the code, or the text message supplies the code, along with a warning to not share the code with anyone. Somehow, you ignore that explicit warning and give the scammer the code number. When you do that, THEY, not you, are issued a Google Voice number, using your personal number as the forwarding number for their account.
To avoid any of this from happening to you, you should never share the six-digit code with anyone else, as is stated in the message sent out by Google.
There are several other steps you can take. The very first thing to do is visit https://voice.google.com/about and select Get Google Voice, in case you don’t have a Google Voice account.
Here’s the solution in all steps necessary:
1. Go to https://voice.google.com and, if you have never created a Voice account, click the “Get a Voice number” link, and then follow the instructions to get a Google Voice number. When asked to link a forwarding phone number, don’t enter your number that the scammer stole. Instead, enter some other phone number, at which you can receive one verification call from Google. It can be any non-VoIP home or office or mobile number, which hasn’t been previously-used to obtain a Google Voice number. You can remove it later, after you recover your stolen number.
2. This time, do answer the verification call or read the text message, and then enter the six digit verification code from Google. Never do this under any circumstances, other than when you initiate this procedure yourself.
3. After your account is set up, go to this page: https://voice.google.com/settings
4. Click the rectangular box, that says “+ New linked number” to link another number. Now, enter your scammed phone number as the forwarding phone you wish to add. If the reclaim process for this number hasn’t been used repeatedly in the past, you will get a warning that the number is currently in use on another account (duh!), and would you like to reclaim it. Respond yes, of course. This will remove the number from the scammer’s account.
5. Note: if you do not get a warning that your number is in use, this simply means that the scammer had already removed it from their account, and you now have nothing to worry about. Please don’t post more questions, asking if you need to do anything else. Your number is safe, and you are finished. Understand: your own security has not been compromised; this scam only leveraged your personal phone number as an “admission ticket” for the scammer.
6. Please be cautious of fraud when interacting with strangers on online sites, especially on Craigslist, which is a frequent target of scammers. Never, ever share verification codes with anyone. No legitimate business will ask for that information. This is an example of the clear warning to not share verification codes with ANYONE.