When verifying a phone number, you usually have to wait for an SMS message with a code to be entered back into the application or website. However, dozens of users are reporting the reverse process: it is Google that sends the SMS, from the user’s cell phone.
If you have discovered suspicious SMS messages sent from your mobile to unknown numbers, it is possible that it is this verification process. Google assures that it is “normal”, although the process is far from optimal in both form and content.
Several users, most of them from India but also some from Europe and the United States, have shared on Google forums the appearance of suspicious messages sent by their cell phones. The messages include a code and the text “Google is re-verifying your phone on this device”, as well as a link to the help page.
The code at the beginning and, especially, the fact that the messages are sent to local numbers that vary from user to user and are not officially listed as belonging to Google were what set off alarm bells for users, fearing spam or some kind of fraud.
However, it seems that this is a routine re-verification process that, for some reason, has become a bit more active over the past few days. Google explains it this way on their support page:
When you set up a Google account, you can enter your phone number. If you do, we will verify that the number is yours.
For security reasons, we’ll periodically recheck it to make sure it’s still your phone number. When we do this, you may receive SMS messages from Google or your device may send messages to Google. An example message might be “Google is verifying the phone number of this device”.
This explains why, although the way the verification is done seems a bit aggressive, potentially incurring additional charges to the user for sending such a message. Not only that, but several users are questioning the extent to which Google can send SMS messages without warning you (several of these messages were sent in the wee hours of the morning, while the user was not using the phone).
The Google team is aware of this behavior and the support forums state that they are working on a solution. How and when it will arrive is yet to be known, so for the moment if you want to make sure it doesn’t happen to you, the only thing you can do is disable SMS permission to the Google app.