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Scammers Hijack Phone Numbers In New Online Scam

Aug 10, 2022 | 6:24 PM

Sergey Zolkin / Unsplash

The Better Business Bureau is warning Canadians about a new scam causing users of online selling platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji to have their phone numbers hijacked.

Scammers will message a seller pretending to be a potential buyer, claiming they are interested in a person’s item. Hackers will then ask for a phone number to allegedly confirm a seller’s identity through a verification code.

“What they can do with that code is they can actually set up a Google Voice number that’s linked to your phone number,” said Kristin Matthews, marketing and communications manager with the Better Business Bureau serving the Atlantic provinces.

“They can essentially hijack your phone number and they could use your phone number to perpetrate fraud and scams.”

Matthews said the bureau first became aware of this scam in July but started to receive multiple reports about the scam to its online reporting tool, BBB Scam Tracker, within the last couple of weeks.

There does not appear to be a specific age demographic falling victim to the scam, which she said shows how sophisticated scammers are becoming.

Matthews said the same scam tactic has been used for listings about missing pets. She said scammers respond to a posting and claim that they know where the pet is or that the animal is with them and, once again, ask for verification to confirm they are speaking with the owner.

“That’s another way that they’re getting people, pulling on those emotional heartstrings because if somebody loses a pet, and that pet is out and about, they’re going to try and do anything to get that pet back,” said Matthews.

To avoid these online marketplace scams, Matthews said users should look out for any red flags, such as deals that sound too good to be true or pressure to quickly sell an item. She adds people should guard all personal information and keep transactions on the original platform.

“The marketplace policies on Kijiji and Facebook usually encourage you not to make transactions outside of the platform,” she said.

“It should happen through that platform so that if something were to go wrong, you might have a little bit more recourse than if you were to make that deal outside of the original platform.”


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