Urgent warning for Google Voice users as FBI spots dangerous scam
THE FBI has warned that Americans who share their phone number online may become targets of Google Voice authentication scams.
The scammers are targeting people who have shared their phone numbers online, in either social media apps, or who have provided it as a form of contact on online marketplaces, according to the federal law enforcement agency.
"Recently, we have also been getting reports of people who are getting targeted in other locations, including sites where you post about lost pets," the FBI said.
The scammer's goal is typically to set up a Google Voice account in their victims' names.
Other times, they might hijack a victim's Gmail account, which can be used in other fraud schemes or in phishing attacks in the future.
According to the FBI, the fraudsters reach out to their targets via text messages or email to express their interest in the item put up for sale.
The scammers then ask the seller to verify that they are not a bot and that their offer is legit by sharing an authentication code they receive from Google
"What he is really doing is setting up a Google Voice account in your name using your real phone number as verification," the agency said.
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"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," the FBI added.
What to do if you're targeted
If your phone number gets linked to a fraudulent Google Voice account, you can reclaim it using the following steps.
First, go to voice.google.com on your computer, then click on the 'Settings' gear icon in the top-right corner.
Tap on 'New linked number' under 'Linked numbers', then enter your phone number.
Click 'Send code' to get a six-digit number sent to your mobile phone.
Enter the code, click 'Verify', then hit 'Claim'.
How to minimize your risk of getting scammed
The FBI advises people to never share Google verification codes with anyone.
They also suggested only dealing with buyers and sellers in person, and to make sure you are using legitimate payment processors if money is involved.
Furthermore, the agency said to never give out your email address to buyers/sellers conducting business on the phone.
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And internet users have been urged to check their online accounts against one of 2021's worst cyber threats.
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