Google Voice code scams are a common means for scammers to get their hands on personal information from users on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Scammers trick users into sharing a Google Voice verification code to take over the victim’s account or create a new one in their name. Here’s how it works and how you stop from falling victim to it.
What is the Google Voice code scam?
Google Voice is a free phone service that allows consumers to utilize a single number on multiple devices—including smartphones, tablets or even PCs—without a SIM card. It relies on voice over internet protocol (VoIP), meaning that it only requires an active internet connection to make a call.
The Google Voice code scam is a form of identity theft where fraudsters mislead their victims and use their actual mobile numbers to create new or take over existing Google Voice accounts.
“[The] Google Voice code scam is about tricking people into sharing their Google Voice activation code,” said Andreas Grant, the founder of Networks Hardware. “By doing so, the attackers get to create a Google Voice account under their info. It’s even better for the attackers if the victim already has a phone number tied to that Google Voice account. From there on, they can use the number to do malicious activities as the number is tied to your account. It is a classic case of identity theft in a way.”
How does the Google voice scam code work?
Google Voice was released in March 2009 as a way for businesses to set up automated attendants and call transfers. Google Voice scams originated shortly after Google launched the service. Fraudsters use your phone number to generate a Google Voice login code. They call you and convince you to share those codes, allowing them to create a new Google Voice account with your number or take over your existing account.
Access to your phone number is one of the biggest assets for scammers. After finding your numbers, these scammers employ various means to manipulate you and gain access to the Google Voice verification code. Here are the top three methods.
Targeting through online marketplaces
Scammers contact sellers with a fraudulent intent to purchase. The scammer may ask for the seller’s phone number through the marketplace before committing to the purchase. To win trust, they may claim to have been scammed earlier and need to verify a mobile number to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
These tricksters also ask the victims to share a six-digit code sent by Google. If you provide them with the code, your identity gets stolen.
Craigslist was once a favorite destination for scammers to find their victims for Google Voice scams. But the platform’s decline and the growing number of Facebook users shifted interest to Facebook Marketplace. According to Thrivemyway, more than 190 million Facebook Marketplace users are US citizens, who are among the primary targets of the scam. Recently, the location for these scams has also expanded to other countries.
Putting up posters is a standard method for locating a missing pet in the United States. Pet owners post their phone numbers, asking people to contact them if they see their pet.
Scammers may take advantage of the situation and contact the individual, claiming to know the lost pet’s whereabouts. They may ask for a verification code claiming to use a service that ensures the missing animal belongs to the individual. After the victim shares the code with the fraudster, they can link their Google Voice to the victim’s verified phone number.
Using already hacked databases
Hackers may access your phone number from hacked databases often exchanged over the dark web. They might sometimes use other services to find numbers associated with email ID and use those numbers for Google Voice scams.
How can you protect yourself from Google Voice scams?
To help prevent Google Voice code scams, Zhanna Sedrakyan of Contact Consumers advises caution when receiving calls soliciting codes. They say third-party services for trying to verify owners of phone numbers, such as BeenVerified’s Reverse Phone Lookup, will never send a code to your number. You should not share such verification codes with anyone, especially on a phone call.
Here are steps to follow to try and avoid becoming a victim at the hands of a Google Voice scammer:
- Do not share your Google Voice verification code.
- Do not allow anyone to pressure you into selling something.
- Transact with both buyers and sellers only in person.
- Ensure you transact with individuals using funds from verifiable sources.
- Do not share your personal information such as contact address, mobile number or email with a stranger.
- Use call-filtering features such as Google Call Screen or a call-blocking app.
Suppose your Google Voice account has been sabotaged or a new account has been created with your mobile number. In that case, you can reclaim access by logging into Google Voice on your PC and entering the latest verification code you receive.
Under Settings > Linked Numbers, link your mobile number with a new Google Voice number. Because a mobile number can only be associated with a single Google Voice number, the one created by the scammer will be disabled.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can a scammer do with my Google Voice verification code?
When you share your Google Voice verification code with a scammer, you give them access to any service linked with that account. They can try to hijack any other service using guesswork, starting with the most obvious ones, such as Gmail. However, there can be more severe implications. By sharing the verification code, you let them commit fraud using your name. This could include taking advantage of your family and friends or making fraudulent purchases.