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Fake Businesses on Google

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You have to give credit to scammers, fraudsters and pathological liars. When money is at stake they are nothing if not creative. For example, did you know that thousands of new, fraudulent business listings show up on Google search and Google Maps each month?

The image shows a Fake Company — at the bottom of the Grand Canyon — that I recently added to Google Maps. So, while mine is fake, caveat emptor, especially if you’re searching for a local locksmith, electrician or plumber.

According to Timothy Revell over at New Scientist:

Local businesses on Google Maps aren’t always as local as they seem. Tens of thousands of bogus listings are added to Google Maps every month, directing browsing traffic towards fraudulent schemes, finds a team of researchers at Google and the University of San Diego, California.

As an example, a fraudster might list a locksmiths at a location on Google Maps when they don’t actually have premises there. When a potential customer calls the phone number listed, they are put through to a central call centre that hires unaccredited contractors to do jobs all over. Often the customer ends up being coerced into paying more than the original quoted price.

To analyse the scope of this abuse, the group looked at over 100,000 listings that the Google Maps team had identified as abusive between June 2014 and September 2015. The fraudulent listings most often belonged to services like locksmiths, plumbers and electricians.

Image: Google Maps screenshot.