According to the FBI, Google authentication code scams that use the company’s voice service are on the rise. Google’s voice service allows you to set up a new virtual phone number that can be used to make domestic and international calls or send and receive text messages. Here’s how the scam typically works…
You post your real phone number on some online platform. It’s common for scammers to target victims who use popular marketplace apps or websites to post items for sale. Want to get rid of that old couch? Post it on one of those popular re-sale sites, and hope someone likes your taste in style. Lost a pet? Post it online and hope someone has found it.
The scammer contacts you via text or email. He is really interested in buying that couch or thinks he found Fluffy. He says he just needs to make sure you are legitimate so he doesn’t get scammed. He says he will send you an authentication code from Google to confirm that you are a real person and not a bot.
You will receive that authentication code in the form of a voice call or a text message. He asks you to repeat that number to him.
What he is really doing is setting up a Google Voice account in your name using your real phone number as verification. Once set up, he can use that Google Voice account to conduct any number of scams against other victims that won’t come back directly to him. He can also use that code to gain access to and take over your gmail account.
If you do get scammed, check Google’s website for information on how to take back control of that virtual voice account. Here’s their procedure to reclaim your voice number:
- On your computer, go to voice.google.com and sign in.
- 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.
- Enter the code and then click Verify.
- Click Claim.
Here are some ways the FBI recommends to avoid getting scammed in the first place:
- Never share a Google verification code 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.
If you believe you are the victim of an online scam, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.
Nathan Muller is the author of 29 technical books and over 3,000 articles that have appeared in 75 publications worldwide. He also writes articles, blogs and social media content for tech companies and their executives.