PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Selling items on an online marketplace like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace can be an easy way to make extra money and get rid of things you don’t need.
However, scammers are using a clever trick to target sellers and set up a phone number in their name.
Many people are currently doing a “summer purge,” hosting sales as well as going digital and posting items online for sale. Cathy Whitaker has recently been using Facebook Marketplace to sell her old furniture.
“It was time for the big purge and I posted almost 60 items for sale on Marketplace in two days. And as soon as I started posting them, I was getting instant interest and I thought, ‘Wow, this is really great. Marketplace is hopping,’” she said.
However, Whitaker soon received messages that she thought were suspicious.
“They would ask for my phone number or for me to text or call them. And I thought that was strange because we already have a connection on Marketplace. So I looked at their profile and it had just been created and there was no activity on it. I knew something was up,” she said.
As it turned out, Whitaker was onto something. Scammers want access to people’s phone numbers, so they can conceal their identity. Or, if a scammer gets your Google Voice verification code and other information about you, they can open new accounts under your name, according to Rebecca Barr from Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Here’s how the scam works:
“They say that they need to verify you because maybe they’ve been scammed before. And so they ask you to send your phone number,” Barr said. “You’d be getting a verification code so that they can verify your identity. So, you think innocent enough, they want to make sure they’re not being scammed. You don’t want to be scammed either. So you go ahead and do it. But in actuality, it is a scammer on the other end, and they are setting up a Google Voice account using your phone number.”
A woman in Portland just had a scammer use this trick on her.
“When they asked me for my number I thought this sounds legit, again, a reputable place,” Christine Fox said.
Next they asked for her to send them the verification code she received. She thought it was strange, but figured it was ok.
“And so I sent it to them and as soon as I hit send, I’m like, ‘oh my goodness, I need to undo this. I can’t undo this,’” Fox said. “The thing was I got excited. I’m like, ‘oh my gosh, I can offload this thing immediately. I don’t have to keep on waiting and waiting.’ So, slow down, I think that is incredibly important.”
Here’s how to avoid online marketplace scams:
- Always guard your personal information
- Watch for red flags — like people pressuring you to make a fast transaction or offer a deal that’s too good to be true
- Understand Marketplace policies and stick to their guidelines — because most online marketplaces encourage you not to make transactions outside of the platform
“This scammer would hit three of my items separately and say, ‘I’m interested I can pick up today.’ So they prey on your sense of urgency to get it moved out of your inventory,” Whitaker said. “I think we’ve all moved away from the garage sale to Facebook Marketplace, and now it’s being polluted with scammers, which is unfortunate.”
BBB says a lot of recent scam reports mention Facebook Marketplace, but this applies to other services as well.
With scams regarding cash apps, be wary of phony buyers who “need” you to upgrade your Zelle or another digital wallet app to accept money from them.
Overpayment scams have also become commonplace, with scammers insisting it was by mistake. Once you are overpaid, the buyer will ask for their extra funds back. After you’ve returned their money, you’ll likely find the initial payment was false. The check will bounce or the buyer’s online payment will be denied. You will have lost the money you “returned” along with the item you sold.
For more information on how to spot a scam, visit the BBB website.