Spring cleaning has arrived and the untouched roller skates that have been collecting dust in your garage for a year need to go. You list them on Facebook Marketplace in the hopes for some spending money. Next, you receive a message from an unknown neighbor who will pick them up today and give you cold, hard cash, if they can just send a six-digit code to your phone to verify you are a legitimate seller. Better safe than sorry, right?

Wrong. A new scam has surfaced where fraudsters attempt to set up online accounts and run other schemes using their victim’s identity. They have been specifically using Google Voice which produces a virtual phone number that allows texts, calls, and voicemails to be sent via the internet. They will pretend to be concerned that your listing is the scam, which may trick some unexpecting victims into giving them their information.

This scam targets those who post an item for sale, a lost pet, or a lost belonging such as a wallet online. This type of listing can easily be found on Facebook and other social websites like Nextdoor. The scammer will contact the poster with concern that their listing may be fraudulent and ask if they can send a code to your phone number that will verify that the posting is real. What is really happening is the scammer is creating a Google Voice account in your name with your phone number and will use that account to do numerous other scams. They could even gain access to your Google and Gmail accounts.

Most websites and apps that allow for reselling usually have their own instant messaging capabilities that would prevent the need to share your personal phone number or email address. The best way to protect yourself from this scam and others is by keeping your information private online and never agreeing to an unsolicited request for a verification code.

If you believe you are the victim of a Google Voice scam, you can report it to your local police, state Attorney General’s office and the FTC. You can also report buyers on Facebook Marketplace, as well as ‘neighbors’ on Nextdoor. Google has an online page with advice on how you can avoid and report Google related scams.

Call-blocking apps, including those powered by TNS Call Guardian®, are also a great resource for reporting and blocking unwanted robocalls. Stay vigilant and share information about scams with others.

Jim Tyrrell is Vice President of Enterprise Product Management at TNS with specific responsibility for TNS’ Communications Market solutions.

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