Google Voice verification code scam: How to avoid & What to do
As if scam artists aren’t greedy enough to begin with, now they want to steal a number that’s not even your real number! Google Voice is a free service that allows you to choose or create a secondary phone number. You can use this number to make domestic and international calls, or send and receive text messages from a mobile phone or browser. You can also merge these various phone numbers into one source.
Today we’ll share everything you need to know about how hackers are stealing Google Voice access – and other phone number access – from unsuspecting consumers just trying to do everyday things. We’ll also touch on how to avoid this, and resolve it if you fall victim.
What is the Google Voice scam?
This scam falls in line with the most common reason for hacked accounts these days: Sharing information that we should not share with anyone. Let’s dive a little deeper…
How the scam works
- A criminal downloads the Google Voice app and links it to a Gmail account.
- Then they find a potential victim, for instance on a sellers marketplace. They express some hesitation that the seller (aka: you) is not real. They ask the seller to accept and text back a code to prove they’re a real person.
- When the victim (seller) texts the code back, the scammer can link the Google Voice number to the victim’s authenticated phone.
- The scammer uses the Google Voice number in fraudulent ads on marketplace websites or other criminal activity.
Why Google Voice?
There’s a level of anonymity that criminals find convenient with this method. For instance, anyone with a Google account can create a Google Voice account for free. There’s no need for any identity verification.
The rise of Google Voice scams
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), they saw a huge increase between August and November 2021, where the percentage of total victim cases went up from 49% to 70% in just a couple months. It’s such a rising issue that the FBI was compelled to issue a warning about them earlier this year.
How to Avoid a Google Voice Scam
Here are some best practices you can use to make sure you never fall for this scam (or many other similar ones out there).
- Don’t share your Google Voice verification code — or any verification code — with someone if you didn’t contact them first. That’s a scam, every time. Report it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
- Only deal with buyers or sellers 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.
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If you’ve been scammed
It’s always a challenge to resolve this situation. However, Google has resources in their Help Center which allow you to reclaim your number. There are two pathways:
- To reclaim your Google Voice Number
- To reclaim your linked number (the actual number your Google Voice is linked to)
Here’s the main Help Center article. To view the steps right now, see below for a recap and a video provided by the ITRC.
If your linked number was claimed
- On your computer, go to voice.google.com
- At the top right, click Settings.
- Under Linked numbers, click New linked number.
- Enter the phone number to link.
- To verify your number, Voice provides a six-digit code:
- If it’s a mobile number, click Send code and Voice sends the code in a text message to the phone.
- If it’s a landline number, click the verify by phone link, and then click Call. Voice calls the phone number and gives the code.
- Enter the code and then click Verify.
- If the number is being used by another account, you get a message asking if you want to claim it.
- Click Claim.
Click Here for a video showing how to reclaim your linked number (provided by the Identity Theft Resource Center)
Additionally, the team at Cyrus can walk you through these recovery steps if you’re having trouble. Cyrus can also assist with proactive protection of most of your online assets and personal information. Download Cyrus
Why am I not receiving calls/messages anymore?
It’s possible you shared your account code/PIN with an untrusted source, whether under false pretenses or by accident. When someone else has this code, they can take control of your linked number, and send/receive calls and texts pretending to be you. It could also prevent you from receiving calls and texts.
Why would someone steal my number?
Scammers and criminals are always looking for virtual phone numbers to engage in more criminal activity. These numbers are largely untraceable. They can also take advantage of the previous legitimacy of your number in order to find more unsuspecting victims.
Can I share my code with someone if I trust them?
Even if you know someone personally, or have built up trust with someone you met recently, you still should NEVER share any links or codes with anyone. EVER. Don’t do it.
What are some other signs of a scam?
If the person you’re communicating with asks for you to send payment in Gift Cards, or other less conventional (and untraceable) methods, that is a sure sign of a scam. Additionally, if they ask you for personal information, like your ID, date of birth, address, phone number, email, etc.
How can I get my Google Voice (or linked number) back?
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