Do you like to use online auction or buy/sell websites to sell second-hand merchandise? Websites such as Craigslist or Facebook Martketplace make it pretty handy to post for sale to a wide reach of potential buyers.

While the practice is handy, it does not come without risks, such as counterfeit checks. Within the last month, I learned of another risk for the online seller.

Two different people contacted me to tell me of this risk. Each posted articles for sale on Facebook Marketplace. Each received contact from a party who sounded interested in purchase. But the potential buyer hesitated, and said they needed some assurance they dealt with a real person. The buyer said they planned to send a “verification code” to the seller’s phone, and urged the seller to tell them the verification code number. Now in both cases reported here, the seller smelled a rat, and refused to go further with the transaction, ending the situation.

So what happened here? Why is this a scam? The actual goal of the pretend buyer in this case is to establish a Google Voice account. Google Voice is a phone service that gives customers a US-based phone number and allows them to send and receive text messages and voicemails over the Internet. Google Voice converts your voice into a digital signal that travels over the internet. More to the point for criminals, Google Voice numbers are very difficult to trace back, which is a definite benefit when you’re in the flim-flam business.

But, to establish a Google Voice account, you need to link it to a real phone number. When that buyer sends you a “verification code”, they already took the first steps to link your phone number with the Voice account. If you give out the verification code, you just allowed criminals to link your phone to the scammer’s new Voice account. Now they are free to use the new Voice account for any crooked reason, with their identity well-concealed.

Besides targeting sellers on websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, it is often directed at people who seek help in finding a lost pet. Scammers contact the pet owners, claiming they found the pet, but wanting to verify you the real pet owner.

It doesn’t matter what the story is, never share a Google verification code, or any verification code with someone unless you contacted them first. Otherwise, it’s always a scam. No exceptions.


Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 242-9211, Ext. 4433, or email me at

Randy Meier is the director of Seniors vs. Crime, which operates in conjunction with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office.

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