How crooks trick users into revealing their Google Voice code : Internet Scambusters #1,087
Google Voice is a way to manage your calls, texts, and voicemails by providing you with a secondary phone number linked to your cell or landline.
But whether you use the service or not, you could be in the sights of fraudsters who use it to hijack your regular phone and open the floodgates to a variety of scams.
In this week's issue, we explain how the scam works, how to spot it, how to prevent it, and what to do if you get caught out.
Let's get started…
5 Steps To A Google Voice Scam — And 1 To Avoid It
Scammers who pretend themselves to be scam victims are taking control of people's cell phones and using them for further crimes - using the popular Google Voice service.
In case you didn't know, Google Voice (GV) is a free (to individuals) US-only service that provides an additional phone number linked to the user's original cell or landline number. The number can be used for making calls, texting, call forwarding, and voicemail.
It's been around since 2009 but in the past couple of years it's been a favorite target for would-be fraudsters.
Millions of people use it and almost two-thirds of people who report theft and misuse of their phone number say they were tricked via the Google service.
The 5-Step Google Voice Scam
The key to the crime is a six-digit code number. Here's how it works:
- The scammer gets your cell phone number. This is easy when you post your number online, for example, when you try to sell stuff or when you run a lost and found ad.
- They call the number as an interested party, a would-be buyer, or lost pet finder for instance but then claim they've been scammed in the past and worry that their target is actually a fraudster.
- They say they're going to send the victim a Google Voice code to verify they're genuine.
- In reality, they open a new GV account using the victim's number and Google sends a verification code to the victim's phone.
- The victim then passes the code to the fraudster who can then activate the new number. Hey presto! They now have a Google phone number linked to your device.
What Happens Next?
Once the scammer has the new GV number, they can get up to all sorts of tricks that will be traced back to you.
They can forward incoming calls to themselves, use the number to make robocalls, buy stuff with it, re-sell the number on the dark web, or use it for identity theft and phishing attacks.
Other nasty tricks include targeting friends and family pretending to be you or diverting other codes sent to you as part of a security check.
Scammers based abroad can also use it to make phone and text calls that appear to be coming from someone in the US.
Just Don't Do It!
Abuse of verification codes is a common scam tactic, not just for Google Voice but for many other online account activities, including banking. The key is simply to trick a victim into disclosing the code.
So, the number one rule is not to tell anyone your verification code over the phone or by text or email in response to an unsolicited call.
That said, it's unusual but not unknown for a customer service rep to send a code while you're troubleshooting an access problem. But this happens in real time, while you're talking to them. Still, you must be 100 percent sure you know who you're talking to.
In addition, when you receive an unsolicited call or message that involves someone saying they'll send you a code - not just for Google but any type of online activity - it's a big red flag. You can be 99 percent sure you're dealing with a scammer.
Google stresses that you should never share a verification code with anyone and that its employees never ask for your code, so you can safely ignore any messages that seem to come from them requesting it.
But If You Did….
Google has been fighting the fraudsters non-stop. Most recently, they have introduced new procedures to enable you to regain control of your phone.
Here, word-for-word, are the instructions:
- 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. The number is linked with your account again.
You can find this and all the details of other options here: Reclaim Your Voice number.
You can also disconnect your regular number from Google Voice and take back full control. You simply enter it here: https://voice.google.com/regain. Google will send its six-digit code to that number and once you've entered it, you'll be free!
It's crucial to do this as soon as you suspect someone is using Google Voice pretending to be you. You can always set up a new Voice number and start over.
This Week's Alerts
It's not Steve: A piece of fake news that's been around for years has started circulating again on Facebook. It's a quote purported to be the final words of Apple co-founder and guru Steve Jobs who died in 2011. They're actually inspiring words but there's no evidence they came from Steve. If you see it, don't share it.
(PS: Steve Jobs' actual last words were "Oh wow," according to family members.)
And it's not Binance: One of the big names in cybercurrency trading, Binance, is being used in a sneaky phishing trick. Victims receive a message seeming to come from the "Official Service for Control and Compensation Payments" saying their personal details have been compromised and that they're entitled to compensation payable in Bitcoin. The message links to a fake Binance page with another link where you'll be asked to provide confidential financial information.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!