Florida AG Moody issues consumer alert warning about Google Voice scams

Moody warns that if fraudsters know more information about their victims, they can use it to target their family members and friends, potentially tricking them into sending money.

Updated: December 8, 2022 - 12:04am

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Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody issued a consumer alert warning on Tuesday about a Google Voice identity theft scam that appears to be on the rise.

“Scammers are preying on users who post in online marketplaces – posing as buyers in an effort to access a victim’s authentication code,” Moody said. “If the scammer accesses the code and is able to set up a Google Voice account in a victim’s name, they may execute additional schemes that can cause great harm to the original target and potentially many other unsuspecting consumers.”

The AARP has issued a warning about Google Voice scams, explaining that people who use online platforms, either posting an item for sale, or asking for help to find a lost pet, for example, and include their phone numbers are targets for the scam. The fraudster, AARP explains, “will call you, feign interest, but say they want to verify first that you aren’t a scammer. They tell you that you are about to get a verification code from Google Voice (their virtual phone and text service) sent to you, and ask you to read it back.”

But “what’s really going on,” AARP explains, is the fraudster is “setting up a Google Voice account in your name,” and goes on to perpetrate scams pretending to be the person whose identity they stole. It’s difficult for law enforcement to identify the actual scammer because they are using real people’s names and phone numbers to perpetrate fraud.

Users of online platforms are encouraged to never share verification codes with anyone. Google Voice Help Center is also helping users reclaim their account information if it’s been stolen or misused.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, nearly 4,000 complaints about these types of scams were made in 2021.

Moody warns that if fraudsters know more information about their victims, they can use it to target their family members and friends, potentially tricking them into sending money.

They can also create fraudulent financial accounts in the victim’s name and potentially break into existing accounts. They can also take advantage of access to Google’s two-factor authentication codes linked to the victim’s phone number.

Moody says consumers can avoid Google Voice identity theft by not conversing with individuals from an online marketplace or social media platform through texts.

“Never share verification codes with anyone,” she warns, “and if an unexpected message is received, make sure that the verification process is unsuccessful.”

As with all scams, “be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, or seem suspicious,” she adds, and don’t respond to “high-pressure tactics” or “urgent demands for personal information.”

Consumers are also encouraged to report scam robotexts, robocalls and fraudulent marketplace postings to the Federal Trade Commission.

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