Consumers and Businesses in the UK are facing a massive threat from Fake Google Business Listings being created on mass at the moment.
The UK does have fake ‘Lead Gen’ businesses, but the sheer scale of this new threat is staggering, by the time I have checked and added 20 listings to my escalation sheet, there are 100 more being added.
Did you manage to spot the 1 legitimate business above ?
If you can’t spot it, how would the average consumer ?
Fake Google Businesses
A couple of days ago, fellow Google My Business Product Expert, Jason Brown alerted me to a fake UK business that had surfaced in a fake review network he was investigating.
These fake Google Businesses are appearing for:
- House Painters
- Pest Control
- House Builders
- Kitchen Fitters
And I have only just scratched the surface.
Dangerous for Consumers
Let me be crystal clear here, the business the consumer thinks they are calling Does NOT Exist!
The telephone numbers listed are voip telephone numbers which route the consumer to an automated system. Your enquiry is then sold to another business (Lead Gen) which the consumer never chose or intended to call.
The business who they think they contacted is not the business or person that will be coming to their home.
The consumer is further duped into thinking this is a good business by their glowing reviews, again all the reviews are fake.
How Can Consumers Protect Themselves?
Some simple checks that consumers can take to protect themselves.
1. Stock Images
You wont find a ‘normal image’ in the business listing.
All these fake listings have between 5 and 15 five star reviews. Click on the first review and take a look at the reviews.
They typically contain a whole load of restaurant reviews which are used to mask the profile, but hidden between are a lot of similar businesses being reviewed.
Even single review profiles are easy to spot. They will typically include the full (although fake) name of the business and the English being used is Indian US.
Search the address in Google. The business is typically not visible (absent signage), shares the address with another business – hotel, restaurant, news agents etc etc
All of these are currently using business.site – which is a free website by Google.
5. Tel Number
They use voip which is used to create a legitimate looking local telephone number.
Calling it will automatically go to an automated system.
Bad for Businesses
This is clearly bad for legitimate businesses because the search results are swamped with fake businesses.
In the video above there is one legitimate business (did you spot it?) and in almost all cases there is not a single legitimate business to be found in the first 20 listings.
What Can Business Do
Local business typically have an easier time identifying fake Google My Business Listings because they keep a close eye on their competition in the area, or know each other in the trade.
When you come across a fake business, you should report it direct to Google using this Complaint Form
You wont receive a reply from Google, and if it has not been removed within two weeks, please post the details in the Google My Business Forum, where one of the product experts can help.
This also helps us to identify new spam verticals where these people are operating in.