InvestigateTV - Google Voice is an online tool that allows you to create a new phone number for use across multiple devices like your phone and computer.
The system has personal and business uses but digital security experts warn that con artists are targeting the system to set up fake accounts and steal identities.
Eva Velasquez, President & CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), said they have taken thousands of calls into the center from victims of this scam.Over the last 15 months, the ITRC has received 6,700 reports related to Google Voice scams.
Velasquez said the scam revolves around bad actors reaching out to online sellers, with the latest version targeting people looking for their lost pets.
Here’s how it works:
- You post something online, like a picture of a missing pet, and share your phone number.
- Someone contacts you claiming to have found your pet, but they ask to verify your identity before they continue.
- They say they are going to send you a verification number that you need to give them to prove you are who you say you are.
- In reality, they have signed up to create a Google Voice account tied to your phone number. To activate the account, Google requires a two-factor authentication, which is a six-digit code Google texts to your phone.
- So, when the scammer asks you to send the verification number, you are actually giving them the code to set up a Google Voice account tied to your personal information.
They can then use the account to scam others, while the evidence trail leads to you, not them.
Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert with NerdWallet said you might not even be aware someone is committing fraud under your name until an investigation begins.
Palmer shared three red flags for scams like these:
- Always be on your guard, especially if someone is demanding information from you.
- Never share an authentication code with someone you don’t know or trust.
- Be wary of high-pressure tactics, like someone urging you to act fast.
According to a Google spokesperson the company has “counter measures in place” and are “taking action on the google voice accounts created” as part of the scams.
The company also offered the below resources:
- Guidance on not sharing your Google Voice verification code: https://support.google.com/voice/answer/9177797
- If users get their phone numbers claimed and registered by scammers, they can reclaim here: https://support.google.com/voice/answer/159519
- General guidance for users on how to avoid and report Google scams can be found here: https://support.google.com/faqs/answer/2952493
If you or someone you know has been a victim of a scam or fraud, you can report it at USA.gov.
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