A friend of mine recently wanted to sell a baby crib and mattress. He posted it for sale on Craigslist and included his phone number to make contact with would-be buyers easier.
My friend received several texts asking if the crib was still available. He answered the first text, and no sooner than doing so, he received another text from the interested party, saying, “There are lots of scammers on Craigslist these days. I just sent you a verification code on your phone. Text me the code to prove you’re a real person.”
My friend texted back, saying, “I’m aware there are lots of scammers on Craigslist, but how do I know that you’re not one, too?” He got a reply saying, “I understand. If you would feel better, please take a screenshot of the code and text it to me instead of typing the code.” Obviously, a human had actually responded, so my friend screenshot it and sent it.
Upon hitting the “Send” button, my friend had second thoughts. My friend realized he had sent a picture of the code to someone he did not know. He might as well have just given the code number. Thinking it might be a scam, he gave me a call.
I hadn’t heard of this scam before, but most of us have become fairly accustomed to verification codes. Companies and websites often use them to verify your identity, commonly sending a text or email message with a five- or six-digit verification code you need to enter on their website to prove you are the person you say you are.
Upon checking, I found my friend had, indeed, been scammed. The targeted users have somehow disclosed their personal phone number (as my friend did in his Craigslist ad). The scam employs the Google Voice/Google Phone service, a free phone number given to you by Google. Calls to that number can be forwarded to your phone.
To set up a Google Phone number, you must provide your phone number for verification. Google then texts or calls with a six-digit code you must enter online to complete the process. You cannot receive a Google Phone number without providing a unique telephone number not already used by another Google Phone account.
Luckily for my friend, this is not normally a scam that will cost you money or cause direct harm. The scammers’ usual goal is to merely use it as a “verification number” to get additional Google Voice numbers, use it for other scams, get rid of those numbers once they’re used to scam victims, then repeat the scam over and over.
If you are a victim of the Google Voice Code Verification Scam, you need to take back your personal number. The process includes several steps which are somewhat involved. The object of this procedure is to connect your phone number to a Google account of your own which would automatically take it out of the scammers’ control. For the sake of space, go to j.mp/2Nbmpe3. It’s a link to the Google Voice Help Forum explaining how to reclaim your number.
The bottom line is do not enter any six-digit codes on calls or texts from Google unless you are the one who initiated the process and requested your number to be used on your Google Voice account.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.