InvestigateTV – Google Voice is an online tool that lets you create a new phone number to use on multiple devices like your phone and computer.
The system has personal and business uses, but digital security experts warn that crooks are targeting the system to create fake accounts and steal identities.
Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), said she has received thousands of calls from victims of the scam.
Velasquez said the scam revolves around bad actors targeting online sellers, with the latest version targeting people looking for their lost pets.
Here’s how it works:
- You post something online, like a photo of an extinct animal, and share your phone number.
- Someone contacts you claiming to have found your pet, but asks you to verify your identity before continuing.
- They say they will send you a verification number which you have to give them to prove you are who you say you are.
- In reality, they signed up to create a Google Voice account linked to your phone number. To activate the account, Google requires two-factor authentication, which is a six-digit code that Google sends via text message to your phone.
- So when the scammer asks you to send the verification number, you are actually giving them the code to create a Google Voice account linked to your personal information.
They can then use the account to scam others, while the evidence trail leads you, not them.
Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet, says you might not even know 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 asks you for information.
- Never share a passcode with anyone you don’t know or trust.
- Beware of high pressure tactics, such as someone urging you to act quickly.
According to a Google spokesperson, the company has implemented “countermeasures” and is “taking action on created Google Voice accounts” in connection with the scams.
The company also offered the resources below:
- Tips for 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 recover them here: https://support.google.com/voice/answer/159519
- General advice 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 the victim of a scam or fraud, you can report it to USA.gov.
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