It’s no secret that there are tons of scammers lurking around Facebook Marketplace. Horror stories of folks who’ve been finessed out of their money, the good they’re selling, and even their identities have circulated around the internet for years, and there are a bevy of resources online that have delineated some of the more common tricks con artists try to pull on unsuspecting buyers and sellers using the online marketplace to conduct business.
TikTok user Michel Janse (@michel.c.janse) unfortunately found herself on the receiving end of one of these scams, which resulted in someone gaining access to her online identity. However, the woman listened to her gut and immediately hopped on the web to get her Google Voice number back that was commandeered by the unscrupulous Facebook user.
She shared her PSA on in a viral clip that’s garnered more than 289,000 views since it was posted on Sept. 30. In the comments, folks chastised her for getting herself into the mess in the first place.
oops dont fall for this scam like me
“Uhh, PSA I just got scammed on Facebook Marketplace like an actual identity theft scam. So I’m gonna share with you so that you don’t fall for it be smarter than me,” she says in the video. “I’m selling some furniture and one girl sent me an offer and I always go look at their picture, you know, just kind of vibe check them. Also I normally try to sell to women cause it’s less sketchy.”
Apparently, this time, Janse was wrong. After the two initially corresponded about her interest in purchasing the item, the woman asked Janse to accept a phone call from Google Voice in order to confirm she is a real person.
Janse explains, “And at first my gut was like, that feels really weird but then I was like she’s a female, I feel weird about selling thing online, I could like respect the safety measures. So I was like feel free to text me here’s my number and then I get this code and she’s says you send me that code you just got and then I’ll voice call you.”
This is a common scam and precisely where Janse went wrong. Scammers find out your phone number, and then send you a unique code. If you, like Janse, give the scammer the code, the scammer is able to create a Google Voice number linked to your phone number. This allows even foreign scammers to appear to others as though they are located in the U.S.
That is—if you’re giving the person your phone number associated with these accounts. From the sound of Janse’s story, however, it would appear that she ended up using a Google Voice phone number, which is a great line of defense against scammers when dealing with strangers you’re trying to buy and sell goods with online. Getting a burner phone number is almost always the play and probably what prevented her from getting royally screwed over from this Facebook Marketplace scammer.
Janse goes on to acknowledge that she messed up sending the scammer the code. “I should’ve Googled before doing it, I Googled right after I did because I was like something feels really off,” Janse says. “So FTC has a whole article about this it’s just an identity theft thing they basically claim your number, then can make calls from it to scam other people pretending to be you, but then they can also create accounts like under your name. So that’s not good.”
Because Janse decided to look into the matter so early on, she was able to ultimately minimize the damage done by the scammer. “Thankfully there’s a way to go onto like Google Voice and basically reclaim your number and take it away from them by sending yourself a verification code again,” Janse explains.
Folks who responded to Janse’s video said that they too were familiar with this hustle. One person wrote, “I have heard of this. I always tell them I prefer to keep communication on fb messenger and they never write back.”
Another user agreed this is par for the course. They wrote, “I occasionally sell on marketplace and this is the most common scam. I always immediately say ‘I don’t have a phone’ and they stop responding.”
Others admonished her for sending a code in the first place: “don’t ever send any codes.”
“Don’t ever send a code girrrrrrrrl,” a second user echoed.
“Omg never send the code,” a third user agreed.
When in doubt, it seems that keeping communication on the Facebook application is the best idea. If you are going to use Google Voice, it is best to never share codes for safety reasons. Also, stay away from mobile forms of payment, vet the other person’s profiles, and attempt to meet in public places, if possible, to buy and sell items. Facebook has a detailed list of guidelines to follow in order to minimize your chances of being scammed while navigating the sometimes scary and thief-laden world of its online marketplace.
The Daily Dot has reached out to Facebook via email and Janse via TikTok comment for further information.
*First Published: Oct 1, 2023, 6:28 pm CDT
Jack Alban is a freelance journalist for the Daily Dot covering trending human interest/social media stories and the reactions real people have to them. He always seeks to incorporate evidence-based studies, current events, and facts pertinent to these stories to create your not-so-average viral post.