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CAFC Bulletin: Phone Verification Authentication (PVA) Scam

Cellphone usage

Phone Verification Authentication or PVA is a tool used by online account providers (ie. social networks, classifieds websites, etc.). The process confirms the owner of a phone number before approving the creation of their new online account. It suggests that a real person owns the phone and the same person will operate the account.

Recent reporting to the CAFC indicates that fraudsters are overcoming this authentication process by registering online classified ads using other people’s telephone number. The scam starts when you post an ad on a classifieds site (ie. Craigslists) and include your phone number in the contact information. The fraudster will contact you saying that they are interested in purchasing your item. However, they will mention that there are a lot of scammers on the site. They will claim to want to verify that you are a real person before sending you any money. The fraudster will send you a verification code and ask that you to send it back to them. Once the fraudster receives the verification code, they will enter it to prove that they own your phone number. Voilà! Your phone number is now linked to an account that will be used for spam or fraudulent activities.

Warning Signs – How to Protect Yourself
  • Do not send a verification code to anyone.
  • You should not receive a verification code, if you have not requested one.
  • Report and delete unsolicited text messages.

If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, please contact the Canadian Anti‐Fraud Centre at 1‐888‐495‐8501 or report online at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

This document is the property of the CAFC. It is loaned to your agency/department in confidence and it is not to be reclassified, copied, reproduced, used or further disseminated, in whole or part, without the consent of the originator. It is not to be used in affidavits, court proceedings or subpoenas or for any other legal or judicial purposes. This caveat is an integral part of this document and must accompany any information extracted from it.