7801 Deercreek Club Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32256
Conmen are everywhere and REALTORS® need to watch that they don’t fall for their latest racket, the Google Voice Scam, said Denise Demico of Fair Realty.
Since Thursday, September 1, and all through Labor Day weekend, Demico said she has been bombarded with anonymous texts from potential clients with area codes from all over the country claiming to be interested in her listings and requesting that she give them a six-digit code to prove that she is a real person before they will call her on the phone.
“The texts start out with the address of my listing, which is underlined,” she explained. “For example, 311 West Ashley St., Unit 1402 would be underlined. Then there are three quotation marks and a comma, then the words Still Available, so it would look like this:
311 West Ashley St. Unit 1402”””, still available?
“The first time it happened, I responded, ‘Yes.’ Then he texted, ‘Okay I want to purchase. For my safety can I send you a six-digit to make sure real? Then I will call you.’”
Fortunately, Demico has an agent in her office who is a retired FBI agent. He simply said, “DON’T RESPOND!” she said.
“I told the texter, ‘As I said before, when you text me from a different number you can pick up the phone and call me. I’m blocking this number. But I have received these text messages from all different area codes. They all have the same layout. I was told that if I respond they will send me a code and if I click on it, then they can grab my number. They are phishing your number so they can use it to call other people. They are trying to gain access to my Google voice account that is registered in my name. They want to hijack my number to trick other people," Demico said.
REALTORS, like anyone hoping to attract clients online, should be aware of the Google Voice scam, which is a way hustlers can steal your personal information to create a fake Google account in your name. If your phone number can be found anywhere on the internet you are at risk.
The scammers act like interested buyers and they try to convince you to share your personal information. To completely avoid this scam, it is wise to only do business in person with folks who have verified funds. If someone asks you via text or email to share a Google verification code with them because they need you to prove you are a real person or a legitimate seller, not a bot, DON’T DO IT! If you send the code back, the crook can use it to go through the Google Voice setup process. Then the call speaks the code along with a warning not to share the code with anyone. If you ignore the explicit warning and give the scammer the code number, they will be issued a Google Voice number using your personal number as the forward number for their account.
If you have somehow fallen for this scheme don’t despair. You can take your personal number back, away from the Google Voice account. You do this by (re) adding your personal phone number to either your existing Google Voice account or, if you don’t have a Google Voice account of your own, then you need to create your own Google Voice account and add your own personal phone number to it as a forwarding phone number. At no time enter a Google Voice number as a forwarding number. In many cases, the scammer has already removed your forwarding phone number from their account already. Usually, their goal is not to forward calls to your personal phone number but merely to use it as an admission ticket to get their own Google Voice number and use it to scam others, get rid of that number, and then repeat the scam over and over again.
Just remember, never, ever share verification codes with anyone. No legitimate business will ask for that information.
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