I research and write about scams – but still fell for a dangerous Google Voice one. This is how it works and how to avoid it.


Kelly Rissman was approached by the scammer while trying to sell old furniture.

Journalist Kelly Rissman is an expert in scams, having investigated them for publications like Insider. But while trying to sell furniture, a scammer was able to set up a Google Voice account with her number. “If this person now uses the Google Voice number to do nefarious things, the first line of investigation leads to you, not to them.” See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two weeks ago, I perked up when my phone lit up with a message from the resale app OfferUp: “Hi, is this still available?”

I didn’t suspect this person, who was claiming to be interested in buying my old furniture, was trying to get hold of phone numbers to turn themselves into a “real person” on Google Voice.

For months, I had desperately attempted to sell my old apartment furniture to offset a rise in storage rent. Glancing at my phone screen, I already felt relieved by the prospect of the sale.

The message was sent by a woman named Jaree, whose profile picture showed a young, unassuming woman with frizzy, dark hair. The app indicated that Jaree’s payment information and phone number were verified. She seemed legitimate.

After I told her that the furniture was still available, she asked for my phone number. I thought it was a great idea; speaking to someone always elicits clearer communication than texting.

I sent it over, despite OfferUp warning: “Sharing contact details with strangers can be unsafe.”

‘Jaree’ messages Kelly Rissman on the OfferUp app.

In hindsight, this should have served as a red flag. But I trusted Jaree, her kind-looking face and her ability to lift the weight of the increasingly expensive furniture off my shoulders. Plus, she had my phone number, not my bank account details.

As a reporter – one who writes about scams, in fact – I am accustomed to doling out my