Online marketplace sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are great ways to buy and sell various items such as specialty food to used cars and furniture.

However, these sites are also popular places for criminals to use variety of schemes to steal money and identity from buyers and sellers. AARP Hawaii’s Outreach Director Jackie Boland was unfortunately approached by a scammer as she was selling a baby crib on Facebook Marketplace.

A scammer reached out to Boland and pretended to be a potential buyer who was eager to ensure Boland was a real person selling a real product. The fake buyer told her that they would send her a code to send back to them.

The code was a verification code for Google Voice, an online service that creates a phone number you can use to make calls using your computer or smartphone.

The verification code was connected to a Google Voice account in Boland’s name and if the fake buyer was able to get enough information, they could pretend to be Boland and access accounts or open new accounts under her name.

Boland shared her story in hopes of warning others about scammers trying to steal identities and even extort money from users.

“Criminals are constantly changing their techniques and looking for opportunities to prey on people when they are emotionally upset or when they are using new technologies,” Boland said.

“Education is the best way to fight back. That’s why I am sharing my story and why we will be sharing other stories about some of the latest scams at an online webinar with Amy Nofziger, AARP’s Director of Victim Support, and why we are bringing AARP elder abuse expert Paul Greenwood to Hawai`i for in-person seminars later in April.”

AARP offers numerous seminars every month and this April, fraud awareness is the main focus. In late April, Paul Greenwood is hosting in-person Fight Fraud Together breakfast seminars throughout Hawaii.

April 22 – St. Michael Episcopal Church, Lihue, Kauai
April 23 – Royal Kona Resort, Hawaii Island
April 24 – Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, Hawaii Island
April 25 – Windward Community College and Central Union Church, Oahu
April 26 – Kaunoa Senior Services, Maui

Greenwood is an AARP Fraud Watch Network speaker and former elder abuse prosecutor. Register for the Fight Fraud Together seminars at or or the AARP Hawaii Facebook page.

“Online marketplaces can be useful tools for buying and selling items. But you are dealing with strangers so it’s a good idea to take precautions,” Boland said.

“Beware of bargains that seem too good to be true. Research sellers and avoid communicating outside of Facebook and Messenger. Use the Facebook payment system or a credit card that allows you to dispute fraudulent payments. You likely will not get your money back if you use peer-to-peer payments, cryptocurrency or gift cards. For sellers, check out the Facebook profile of prospective buyers. A page with too little information may be a warning sign. Watch out for pressure tactics and be wary of buyers who want to pay with a personal check. It can take weeks for a bank to figure out if a check is a fake.”

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