If you are looking for a HVAC repairman, a plumber, an electrician, a garage door repair company, or any other service, better be careful because there are a lot of fake business listings in Google maps.
Fake Garage door repair business listings
Google has been cracking down on fake business listings since 2017 but the problem still persists until today.
In 2018 alone, Google removed more than three million fake business listings but, somehow, scammers still manage to hijack search results for services like plumbing, electrician, garage door repair, towing and other services where the “service man” has to visit your house or go to your current location to perform the “service”
In an article published by the Wall Street Journal in June of 2019, a 67-year-old homeowner who found out that her garage door was stuck took to Google and found a local repair service she had used before.
It turned out that the name of the legit business was hijacked by a shoddy repairman and put his own phone number in it.
The unsuspecting homeowner was charged $728 for a repair that was so bad it had to be redone.
On June 26, Joy Hawkins posted on twitter “Garage door spam on Google Maps is out of control. I just looked at a SERP where 4/20 of the top listings were real businesses.”
To which Danny Sullivan, Public Liaison for Search in Google, replied “Yep. We’re aware. I passed along earlier feedback, and I think we should see some improvements to better deal with this coming in the very near future.”
Fake Plumber Listings
In the same article from The Wall Street Journal, it showed that a search for plumbers in New York City generated 13 false addresses out of the top 20 Google Maps search results.
It may take some time before Google finally puts a stop to this very bad practice but, judging by Mr. Danny Sullivan’s reply, they (Google) are doing what they can to bring down fake business listings.
How to spot a fake business listing?
The thought of having a scammer come to your house and posing as a repairman is extremely scary. What if he’s not just out to scam you for a couple of hundred bucks? What is he’s planning something more sinister and is just waiting for the right victim?
Even though Google is tracking them, it is nearly impossible to spot every fake business listing that is created every single day. Plus, what’s stopping these scammers from posting new listings after their fake listing is removed? It’s a never ending process and Google needs all the help they can get.
There are tell-tale signs that suggests a listing may be fake.
1.The business name is a keyword instead of an actual business name like;
- Garage Door Repair + City
- City + Garage Door Repair
- Or Affordable + keyword, The Best + Keyword, and the likes.
Unless, of course, it really is their business name or trade name which is highly unlikely.
2. The address does not exist or they do not have an office at the listed address. You may need to use Google maps for this or actually drive to the address if you are suspicious of a business listing.
You’d be surprised to find that some of these fake addresses are abandoned buildings, residential apartments, or has a totally different business in it.
3. They answer the phone with a different business name.
4. The same phone number is used in multiple listings in different locations.
5. Very few (mostly fake) or even zero customer reviews.
Google’s spam redressal form
To report a fraudulent listing, fill out Google’s spam redressal form.
According to Google My Business expert, Ben Fisher, it is advisable to use the “Suggest an edit” first and lodge your complaint from there before submitting a redressal form.
This is because “Suggest an edit” is a machine learning mechanism and your input helps the AI decide what type of listings should be removed from Google Maps.
How to avoid getting scammed
For the most part, people get scammed because they did not do their research prior to scheduling a service. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to do but, unfortunately, there are a lot of scammers out there and Google has become one of their avenues in luring victims.
You can avoid becoming a victim by doing these things before committing to any service
- Read reviews. Most legitimate businesses have a lot of reviews and they are almost always a mix of good and bad reviews. If they have few reviews and all of them are great. That could be a bad sign. Also, check if the business owner is replying to reviews.
- Check out their website. Though there are scammers who invest in great looking websites, most of them just patch up a website in a hurry and use Google’s free website.
- Call them. Most often than not, you can immediately tell if they are legit or not once you get them on the phone. For one, they’re business name may be different than what is listed in Google Maps so they will be greeting you with a different business name or they may just say “hello”.
- Check out their address in Google Maps (street view). You should see a store front if they really have an office in that address.
Fighting scammers is a collective effort and we can all do our share in making the community safe. Your first priority is not to fall victim to these scammers and second, to report any fraudulent Google business listing you may find.