Imagine this: You’re eagerly selling an antique dresser on Facebook Marketplace and a prospective buyer communicates interest in it. However, they express concern that you may be trying to scam them.
In an effort to establish your credibility as a legitimate seller, they request you confirm your identity with a verification code. Soon enough, a text message arrives from Google containing the code. It may appear harmless at first glance, but sharing it with the potential buyer can lead to unfortunate consequences.
Armed with the code, they can set up a Google Voice account that appears to be linked to your phone number. This grants them the unsettling ability to engage in fraudulent activities under your name.
This scheme is known as the Google Voice verification scam, and it has become increasingly prevalent. Last year, an alarming 61% of identity theft cases reported to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) were directly attributed to Google Voice scams, representing a substantial portion of the 80% of victims whose identities were compromised through various fraudulent activities .
What is Google Voice?
Google Voice is a free online service provided by Google that offers users the ability to set up a virtual phone number. With Google Voice, you can send text messages, make voice and video calls, and even record voicemails. The unique feature of Google Voice is that it allows you to link the virtual number to any phone you choose. When someone calls or sends a message to your Google Voice number, it will ring or notify the linked phone.
What is a Google Voice Scam?
A Google Voice verification scam is a deceptive tactic used by criminals, both overseas and potentially within the United States, to exploit the process of enabling a Google Voice account.
To establish an account, Google requires a confirmation code to be sent to an active U.S. phone number. Scammers often obtain victims’ phone numbers from online sales listings or social media platforms and initiate contact, pretending to be an interested buyer or seller.
They claim they will send a verification code to ensure you are legitimate when in fact they are the scammer. If you unknowingly share the code with the scammers, they can create a Google Voice account associated with your phone number, allowing them to engage in fraudulent activities that are linked back to you.
Common Google Voice Scams
Here are some tactics used to deceive unsuspecting individuals into revealing their Google Voice verification codes:
Impersonating a buyer or seller:
Cybercriminals often assume the role of a potential buyer or seller on platforms like Facebook, Craigslist, or OfferUp. They may claim to be interested in purchasing or selling something and request a verification code as a security measure.
Offering a fake job opportunity:
Scammers may reach out with a deceptive job offer, insisting that the individual provides them with a verification code as part of the supposed hiring process.
Connecting on dating sites:
On dating sites, scammers may establish a connection with the victim and then request a verification code, saying they want to ensure the victim is a real person.
Why Do Scammers Want Google Voice Verification Codes?
Understanding why scammers want Google Voice verification codes is important to help protect yourself from potential threats. Below are a few examples of how fraudsters can use Google Voice numbers for malicious purposes:
1. Call and Text Scams
Cybercriminals can make unsolicited calls or send spammy text messages to unsuspecting individuals. They can attempt to deceive recipients by impersonating a trusted entity, such as a bank or a government agency, in order to trick them into providing sensitive information or making fraudulent payments.
2. Phishing Attacks
Scammers may send out phishing messages, pretending to be a legitimate company or person to lure recipients into revealing personal information, such as passwords, credit card details, or Social Security numbers.
3. Robocalls and Telemarketing
Google Voice numbers may be used to initiate automated robocalls or telemarketing campaigns. These calls can include fraudulent offers, fake prizes, or requests for financial information. The aim is to deceive people into disclosing sensitive data or making payments for non-existent products or services.
4. Illegal Activities
Fraudsters may exploit Google Voice numbers for illegal activities, such as harassment, intimidation, or extortion. They can make threatening calls or send malicious messages to intimidate or manipulate individuals.
5. Spoofing and Call Forwarding
Call spoofing is another tactic commonly used where a caller ID is manipulated to appear as a different number. This can be used to deceive individuals or organizations and potentially facilitate scams or social engineering attacks.
6. Stealing Sensitive Information
When scammers obtain personal information, their intentions often extend beyond that initial acquisition. They leverage this information to collect additional details and construct a comprehensive profile. Armed with this knowledge, they can engage in various forms of identity theft, such as fraudulently opening accounts in the victim’s name.
Protecting Yourself From Google Voice Scams
Don’t fall victim to Google Voice scams – help keep yourself safe with these simple guidelines:
Always verify identities:
Prior to sharing any personal information, make sure to verify the identity of the individual or organization requesting it. This can be done by independently contacting them through official channels or confirming their legitimacy through trusted sources.
Be cautious of unsolicited offers and requests:
Be careful when receiving unsolicited calls or messages that offer tempting deals or requests for sensitive information. If an offer appears too good to be true, it is likely a scam.
Don’t share your Google Voice verification code:
Never disclose your Google Voice verification code to anyone if you didn’t contact them first, regardless of the reason or urgency presented.
Set up two-factor authentication:
Enable two-factor authentication using an authenticator app instead of relying on SMS. This approach significantly boosts security because scammers are unable to bypass your two-factor authentication even if they associate your phone number with a Google Voice account.
Monitor your credit and identity:
Regularly monitor your credit reports, bank statements, and other financial accounts for any suspicious activity. Report any unauthorized transactions or accounts immediately to the respective financial institutions. IdentityIQ identity theft protection services are also essential to keeping your information safe. With IdentityIQ services, you receive real-time alerts about potential fraudulent activity.
Where to Report Google Voice Scams
If you’ve been the target of a Google Voice scam, report it to the relevant parties as soon as possible. Here’s where you can report Google Voice scams:
Federal Trade Commission:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the primary agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting fraudulent activity, You can easily file a complaint with them online at ftc.gov.
FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center:
To help bring cybercriminals to justice, consider reporting the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
How to Reclaim Your Google Voice Number
If you have mistakenly given someone your Google Voice verification code, take immediate action to regain control of your Google Voice number. Follow the steps outlined by Google to reclaim your Google Voice number and ensure the security of your account.
As the threat of online scams continues to grow, it’s essential to remain vigilant and safeguard yourself from potential dangers. Among the numerous fraudulent schemes that exist, Google Voice scams are becoming increasingly prevalent, posing a significant risk to your privacy and security.
Find peace of mind and protect your identity with the comprehensive identity theft protection offered by IdentityIQ. Benefit from real-time fraud alerts and credit monitoring, designed to safeguard your sensitive information and keep you protected from potential threats.