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Fake Listings on Google Maps is Still a Growing Problem

By Bill Toulas / June 24, 2019

Fake business listings on Google Maps have been around since the web mapping service launched in 2005, and no matter the continuous and strenuous efforts of the tech giant to filter them out, they are still there. These listings can ruin the day of someone who consults them, or simply cause trouble to other competing services in the area. This is very often the whole point of registering a fake listing on Google Maps, as these are not the results of innocent mistakes really.

According to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal, several businesses are placed on the wrong location on purpose, just to be near a competitor. This way, someone who is looking for a particular service may find them as well, and even if the address isn’t quite the right one, it may still be enough to “steal” that potential customer. Other motives have to do with the visibility that businesses get on Google Maps, and the effect that this has on Google Search ranks. If you add a branch in an area of high interest, your business will rank higher, and so your website will have many more visitors.

According to the WSJ piece, some pay fraudster marketers tens of thousands of dollars to get better visibility. In many of these cases, the crooks decide to ask for even more, and if they don’t get it, they flood Google Maps with fake listings around the real address of the business owner, which results in a catastrophe for the victim. In another case, a lawyer found out that a competitor office had posted 108 listings, most of them fake and all of them assigned with phone numbers that divert calls back to a single office.

Google is fighting against an epidemic, as fraudsters who add the fake listings charge a typical of $99 for each, so they cannot be stopped easily. In a recent post where they detail how they deal with this problem, Google claims they have taken down more than 3 million fake business profiles with 90% of them being removed before anyone even saw them on Maps. Out of these, 250000 were reported by users of Maps, which indicates how important it is for us to flag fake businesses. The alarming detail was that the fraudsters increased in number during 2018 by 50% (compared to the previous year), reaching 150000 user accounts.

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