I lead The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), a non-profit organization established to empower and guide consumers, victims, businesses, and government to minimize risk and mitigate the impact of identity compromise and crime. NortonLifeLock supports ITRC as a corporate partner, funding our research, awareness-raising efforts, programs, and victim support services.
Part of ITRC's work is identifying and spreading the word about new identity theft risks. Recently, identity criminals have taken advantage of Google Voice to scam people on many different marketplaces, including Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. At ITRC, we saw a massive jump in Google Voice scams in 2021. Of the 1,824 total victim cases we received in August 2021, 49% of them were Google Voice scams. This trend continued throughout the rest of 2021, and in November, 70% of the scams reported to the ITRC regarded Google Voice.
What Is Happening
Scammers look for people selling items online and message them as if they are an interested buyer. The criminals proceed to have a Google verification code sent to the seller. They then ask the seller to share the code to verify that they are a real seller. However, it is a Google Voice scam, and the scammer is looking for the victim to share the code with them to use it to create a new Google Voice phone number tied to the seller’s number. Another scenario is when they create a fake post selling the same items as a legitimate seller.
Scammers are after your Google Voice phone number and information so they can make another Google Voice account in your name to defraud other people with it.
How to Avoid a Google Voice Scam
Take your time when selling (and buying!) online. If someone asks you to share a Google verification code with them, do not do it. Google itself also recommends never sharing a verification code:
Buy and sell online through established platforms like eBay and Etsy that offer identification verification, secure payment, and customer service.
If possible, do business in person and make sure the funds you are receiving are verified.
If you have already been a victim of a Google Voice scam, you should reclaim your number. Watch our Google Voice recovery video on how you can reclaim your number.
We know these scams can be scary. Follow the above guidelines to reduce the risk of becoming a victim. If you do become a victim, there is no shame in it, and ITRC is here to help. Our expert advisors are always available to walk you through the process of resolving your case.
For more information on any of these scams, or if you believe you were the victim of an identity crime, contact the ITRC at 888.400.5530 toll-free via live chat on our website www.idtheftcenter.org.
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