The FBI is receiving a tsunami of reports of malicious Google Voice scams
So, here’s how the scam works:
Let’s say that your your fur baby, Mr. Pickles goes missing. So, you post a picture along with your phone number on social media and Craigslist, hoping that a good samaritan will find and return him safely to your arms.
Then, good news! You get a text or email from somebody who thinks they’ve found Mr. Pickles but they’re afraid of scammers (your post) and want to verify that you’re a real person (not a bot) or to verify that you’re the pet’s true owner.
So they send you a Google authentication code in the form of a voice call or a text message, then ask you to repeat the number back to them to prove you’re not a crook! In reality, they’re setting up a Google Voice account in your name, using your phone number, and the “authentication” code is actually the two-step verification code needed to complete the set-up process.
There have been so many scams in recent weeks that follow this formula that the FBI issued a warning to the general public about it. Scammers are going at full speed with this scam tactic, targeting everyone from unsuspecting pet owners to those trying to sell their couch!
Why are scammers so interested in Google Voice?
The Google Voice service offers a virtual phone number that can be used to make domestic and international calls and send and receive text. It can be used to launch any number of scams, all without being traced back to the scammer.
That verification code can also be used to gain access to and hijack Gmail accounts, post fraudulent ads on marketplace websites or other criminal activity, hiding their true identity and leaving the victim looking like the guilty party. Sometimes the scammers are also looking for other information about the target that they can use to access financial accounts or open new accounts in the victim’s name.
The FBI offered these ways for consumers to protect themselves from becoming a victim:
- Never share a Google verification code of any kind with others.
- Only deal with buyers, sellers and Fluffy-finders in person. If money is to exchange hands, make sure you are using legitimate payment processors.
- Don’t give out your email address to buyers/sellers conducting business via phone.
- Don’t let someone rush you into a sale. If they are pressuring you to respond, they are likely trying to manipulate you into acting without thinking.
Stay safe out there