Last Updated: 7/5/19
If you’re a small business owner, you probably receive an enormous number of phone calls about your listing on Google. The following information is designed to help you be more informed about all Google My Business scams out there.
4 Common Types of GMB Scams to Watch For
While there are a number of shady GMB activities certain groups have exploited over the years, there are some emerging ones that business owners should be aware of.
#1 Companies Impersonating Google
One of our clients shared with us that they receive as many as 30 or more calls from different companies claiming to be a Google Representative – most of whom had identified an issue with their business listing; stating they could fix their inaccurate listing information for a fee.
This is a trick.
The so-called Update Your GMB Listing Scam. This threat has been ongoing for as long as GMB, formerly Google Local, has been around.
In the most common version of this type of fraud, a business claiming to be Google or to work directly with them calls you to tell you that your listing is about to expire; or is at risk of expiring and all you have to do is sign up for a monthly subscription and they will take over the management of your listing. If you fall for the swindle, the fake company potentially has access to your credit card or banking information and often control over your Google account as well.
In 2015, the search engine leader filed a lawsuit against a robocalling SEO firm that was making these kinds of calls. In spite of the lawsuit, the scam isn’t going away and many of our clients continue to call us in confusion. Because, in spite of being a client, they are still bombarded with these calls and unsure of how to react.
#2 Promise of Map Pack Rankings
The Map Pack, aka Local Pack, Three-Pack, Snack Pack, and a number of other fun nicknames (we’re sure), is the name given to Google Maps’ search results. The Map Pack typically appear above the organic search results when someone searches for a local service or product and it includes just three local businesses to choose from. So as one could imagine, you can drive a lot of website traffic and business from being ranked within this area of search results. It is also for this reason that scammers will call businesses offering to get them listed.
This in itself is not a scam; however, promising to deliver upon something that will never happen is.
To ensure you’re working with a reputable local SEO company, ask the caller how long it takes to achieve such rankings and then inquire about a guarantee if it doesn’t happen.
#3 GMB Account Jacking
While this, like most forms of trickery is nothing new, there has been a surge in fraudulent companies and actors swallowing up tens-of-thousands of unclaimed GMB accounts. Why would someone want to claim or take control of your GMB account? A number of good reasons!
We already discussed how having a GMB account that ranks in the Map Pack can generate a lot of business, so in theory, having numerous accounts ranking within a specific geographical area will drive even more business. Once a swindler has control of your account, they can change everything; namely the phone number and website URL. This of course would redirect phone calls and website traffic to properties owned by the trickster.
How is this accomplished?
Two main ways: (i) claiming an unclaimed business or (ii) having access granted to a claimed listing (by the individual who claimed it – the business owner more often than not). If you see an access request come through to your email and don’t recall working with anyone recently who may need it, it’s probably a form of deception. For unclaimed businesses, Google often requires a PIN sent to the company address via postcard to be verified. Sometimes cheaters get away with initiating the postcard and calling the business a few days later with a script designed to get the person to reveal the PIN. We’ve even seen specific instructions included in the postcard from the person who initiated it that will instruct the recipient to call or email the PIN to someone.
#4 Fake Listings Scam
People looking for a leg up on ways to gain the system won’t stop at claiming and accessing legitimate GMB businesses, they’ve turned to making their own! As reported recently by George Nguyen on Search Engine Land, there are millions of fake Google Maps listings and they’re hurting businesses and consumers alike.
What does this mean to you?
If you’re a mom-and-pop shop or perhaps a sole proprietor, you could indirectly fall victim to this type of con. For example, let’s say you own a landscaping business in Avondale and for years you’ve ranked in the Map Pack and been the recipient of tons of leads and business from it. But one day you notice your GMB leads have slowed and eventually stopped coming in altogether. Would it upset you to hear that a competitor hired a company that made up numerous fake Avondale landscaping companies and not only got their GMB accounts approved, but their listings began replacing legitimate company’s listings in Google’s search results? You’re damn right you’d be mad and this is taking place rampantly across the world as you read this. Google has recently claimed that they are actively working to curb this type of behavior, but what about the damage that’s already done?
Is it a Scam?
So how can you tell if that GMB listing service call is someone trying to defraud you? First of all, consider that reputable companies will…
- Never say they are Google or a “Google subcontractor,” or a “Google representative,” or anything similar. Some companies like BizIQ are certified Google Partners, but we are still not Google and will never represent ourselves as working for the search engine giant.
- Identify themselves by name when they call you.
- Call you to talk to you about managing your online presence across a host of listing websites, not just Google, such as Bing, Citysearch, Yelp, Angie’s List, and a number of other popular services.
- Discuss additional digital marketing services like search engine optimization, website design & development, reputation management, paid media, social media, content marketing, and similar services.
- Be upfront with pricing and there will be no hidden/backend fees.
- Answer all of your questions accurately and truthfully; as they truly want to help your business grow.
Keep in mind, Google does not directly offer SEO, website development, reputation management, social media, content marketing, paid media management, or any other managed online marketing services. Google does facilitate paid advertising services through their Google Ads platform, but only offers support and does not manage business’ campaigns.
What is a Scam?
It’s no wonder that when a marketing company who actually offers real help with online local listings calls, business owners often hang up out of frustration and confusion over who to trust.
There are plenty of legitimate local online marketing companies who do provide local citation or local listing management services. BizIQ is one is one of those companies. You can tell by looking at our customer reviews! Unfortunately, there are fraudsters out there and one scam in particular that won’t go away; making it tough for both businesses and marketing companies.
How to Spot a Fake Google Rep
Google will not call you to offer you a listing management service.
At no time will this ever happen. Below are examples of things that Google will never do. In fact, if you get a call from someone claiming to be Google who offers you any services like the following, you can be certain the call isn’t coming from a legitimate source and that it’s either a scam or from a business that either doesn’t really know what they’re doing or one that isn’t completely on the up and up.
- Google won’t charge you money. Your GMB account is 100% free.
- Google won’t call you to talk about improving your search rankings.
- Google won’t call you to tell you that your listing will be deleted because you don’t have a website.
- Google won’t call you to tell you that your listing will be deleted because it’s not mobile compatible.
- Google won’t call you to sell paid advertising.
- Google won’t call you to tell you your listing is about to expire. A listing on GMB does not expire.
How to Spot a Real Google Rep
Believe it or now, there are times when a Google Representative will call your business or reach out to you.
To add to your confusion, there are a few instances when a Google representative might call your business about your GMB account or to talk about other proprietary products that could help you market your business online. However, they are very specific.
- Google might call you to verify your business listing – typically in the form of a robocall; however, you can request a verification code via text.
- Google does call businesses to verify details for Google Maps or Google My Business.
- Google might call you to inform you of other Google products like Google Adwords, Google Adwords Express, Google Local Services, Google Play, or another Google product.
- Google does not use robocalling and unless you asked for an automated call, you will always be contacted by a live person.
What Can I Do?
So if you’re fed up with all the calls, people keep trying to hijack your GMB account, or you find a ton of fake businesses in your space, report this activity to Google! Simply visit the GMB third-party policy: Report a violation form and make an official complaint. Additionally, if you know the name of the company that is harassing you, you can leave a bad review or two on their GMB page, or Facebook page, or Yelp page, you get the idea.
Remember, ethical local internet marketing companies won’t claim they’re Google or tell you your listing is going to expire. Google won’t call you to tell you that you need to pay them money or risk losing your GMB account and they do not offer services like website development, SEO, or social media management. Google might call you to verify your business listing, which is free, and they may call you to verify specific business details in relation to your provided GMB information.
Trying to figure out if a phone call about your Google listing is a scam or not can be extremely confusing. If you’re baffled about how Google My Business works or you’re being bombarded with calls from businesses claiming to be Google, give us a call. We’re happy to help.