Google Maps Verification Made More Strict After Series of Scams

Media Division | April 12, 2017

Google Maps has become one of the most helpful online tools for those all around the globe.  It allows a person to get directions to anywhere they need to go.  And along with this is the ability to locate businesses of any type in the individual’s surrounding area.  A simple text entry of what type of business the person is needing and the results populate the map with the phone number and addresses of different businesses.  But, there is a potential risk with this service, how does one know that these businesses are legitimate?  At this point, one may simply assume to trust Google or whatever other search provider to verify these various businesses. Google does this through its Google My Business program, which allows businesses to add their listing to the search site.

Unfortunately, while this typically does a great job at preventing the addition of fake sites in the search results, there are some that are able to slip by.  In fact, it had been discovered that there had been a small group of scammers that were able to continuously exploit the system and put up fake listings of businesses such as electricians, plumbers, etc.  The fake listings were often created to defraud or extort individuals.  Sometimes, they were completely fabricated businesses, whereas other times, the scammers would even hijack real business names or websites.  These listings were used to siphon business from legitimate companies, direct individuals to various sites, and gain referral fees.  In some cases, when individuals contacted these listings, the scammer could show up to fix something and charge inflated rates.

Google had commissioned a study in regard to the problem from the University of California, San Diego, and they had discovered that the fraudulent listings had peaked in June 2015 and have since declined by around 70%.  Around two out of five of these fake listings were scammers purporting themselves as various professionals.  And around ten percent of fake listings were legitimate business websites that scammers would claim and use to get referral fees.  About three-quarters of the fake listings were in the United States and India, with France and the UK being the next largest.  Typically, these listings were removed quite quickly within days, but the scammers would create multitudes of listings within weeks using PO boxes and VoIP numbers.

Google has implemented several methods in an attempt to curb this activity.  For instance, they have prohibited bulk registration of most addresses, and do not allow companies to list addresses that are quite far away without first verifying them.

Employing Comprehensive Cyber Security to Prevent Cyber Attacks

While not all organizations will be the target of scams like the above, there are various different types of cyber attackers working to penetrate organizations around the web.  Cyber attacks and scams are more prominent than ever, which makes the issue of cyber security extremely critical.  There are still some organizations who have lacking cyber security, and operate off of the idea that they hopefully will not be targeted.  This is a quite dangerous mindset to have, being that a wide array of customer and organizational data is now held on networks and systems.  Some smaller organizations function on the belief that they will not be a target simply because they are small, but this is not the case, as many attackers target smaller organizations because of their often lacking security.  Massive Alliance’s cyber security services can assist organizations of all types and sizes to prevent cyber attacks.

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