The Google Voice scam, in which scammers take over your phone number, has become a common form of identity theft. Through Google Voice, scammers can make spam calls that are traced to your phone, not theirs.
The Identity Theft Resouce Center (ITRC) says it received 3,926 contacts regarding the Google Voice scam in 2021. That’s 53% of the total number of scam contacts. In 2022, it receive 4,081 such complaints, 61% of the total.
Fortunately, ITRC says there are ways consumers can free their phone number if it’s hijacked through the Google Voice Scam. Google recently updated its steps on actions victims can take.
Go to https://support.google.com/voice/answer/9177797 and scroll down to the section labeled "Disconnect your number from Google Voice."
Click on "disconnect your number" at the end of the first sentence, which will take you to a page that says "Take your number back."
Enter the phone number you want to remove from Google Voice on the take your number back page and click "Send the code." It will send a verification code to your phone via text message.
Enter the verification code once you receive it. You will be notified that your number has been removed.
How Google Voice works
Google Voice is a telephone service that provides a phone number to Google Account customers but you must have an active telephone number to use it. It is often used for call forwarding and voicemail services, voice and text messaging.
You can also use it to make international calls, one feature that makes it very attractive to scammers. But scammers first need to steal someone’s phone number so calls can’t be traced to them.
If you are trying to buy or sell something using an online marketplace, ITRC says you should be particularly aware of this scam. One of the most common ways scammers get your number is by posing as interested buyers and sellers on online marketplaces.
The criminals act like interested buyers and try to convince you to share your Google verification code with them. They use your real phone number to get a U.S. number through Google Voice to make it look like they are calling from the U.S.
It’s actually an easy way to “spoof” a telephone number – hiding who is actually making the call. The people operating this scheme create a fake Google Voice number can be difficult to expose since all paths will lead back to the victim’s primary phone number, not theirs.
The Federal Trade Commission advises Americans to never share their Google verification code – or any verification code for that matter – with anyone they don’t know.