CLEVELAND — Tara Kieser of Cleveland never could have imagined that the search for her lost dog "Maizy" would lead her to a con artist who tried to take control of her smartphone.
Kieser told News 5 Maizy, a 9-year-old Hungarian Vizsla, went missing on Jan. 30, so she contacted neighbors, animal shelters, and posted information about her dog on social media and the lost pet online bulletin board called Pet FBI.
She said minutes after posting her contact information online, she received a suspicious text to her phone that her dog was found, but the caller was requesting she give out a Google Voice Authentication code to prove she was the dog owner.
"Within 20 minutes I got a text message that said we found Maizy," Kieser said. "A couple of minutes after they responded, they said we need to verify that you’re her actual owner. So I said I am her owner, I can provide her microchip number."
"That’s when they started with we’ll send you a verification number, can you send us the six-digit code. As desperate as I was, and I wanted to believe that they had Maizy. I'm just lucky my husband and my friend were standing there with me, and they were like that’s not legit.”
Fortunately, Kieser did not give out the verification code, even though she reports a day later one of her credit accounts was hacked.
Ericka Dilworth, Cleveland Better Business Bureau Director of Operations, told News 5 if consumers give out their Google Voice Authentication code, it allows con-artists to take control of the consumer's phone number, and pose as the consumer on the phone to perpetrate other scams.
“They can then pretend to be your phone number and pretend to be you through your phone number," Dilworth said. “You need to be careful; you can't trust the person on the other end of the text or the phone, or however it is you’re communicating, especially when they’re a stranger.”
"These con artists are always looking for new and different ways to trick you into allowing them into your life. So that’s how they can then pretend to be you, and so who knows what they would do once they were able to do that.”
Dilworth said the Google Voice Authentication scam has become so big it prompted a recent nationwide warning from the Federal Trade Commission.
More information on this scam and instructions on how to take back control of your phone number, if you've given out your authentication code, can be found on this webpage.
Meanwhile, Keiser is happy to report Maizy was found by a Lorain Avenue business employee and returned to her family a day later. Still, she warns that consumers need to be careful about posting their phone numbers or contact information on public web pages.
“And you’ll do anything to get a member of your family back, and so I can absolutely see how someone would give out personal information," Keiser said.
“Yes definitely, you need to think about that carefully, what you’re putting out and who’s getting access to that information.”