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article imageOp-Ed: Fake business listings on Google Maps — Fraud and stupidity

By Paul Wallis     Jun 20, 2019 in Internet
New York - Fake business listings are listed under one business name, and rerouted to a competitor. On Google Maps, this is called a “duress vertical” (great use of language, guys; it's fraud) and it’s at plague proportions.
The problem was reported by the Wall Street Journal, and according to WSJ there are hundreds of thousands of these listings, per month. The report says that 13 of the top 20 search results are in fact fake.
It’s pretty easy to add a business listing to Google products, so it’s a popular scam. Google does have a verification system for checking listings, but it’s debatable whether the countermeasures are working, in the face of the statement about hundreds of thousands of fake listings per month. May well be that the scammers aren’t being deterred, at the very least.
Stupidity incarnate
This staggeringly stupid idea also has a few downsides, believe it or not:
1. Say you’re a business and some clown lists you under a fake listing. All you need to do is prove the fake listing, and pick a number for damages. Six, seven figures sounds nice, doesn’t it? Would you like to retire early? The fake business to which you’re rerouted can oblige if you have a nice lawyer.
2. Fake listings are also fraud, just about everywhere on Earth and fraud is a criminal offence. By making a fake listing, you’re committing fraud. Any consumer can raise quite a stink about that, particularly if they’re under the impression they’re doing business with ABCD Inc and find themselves billed by WXYZ Inc. That’s called misrepresentation or false advertising, and of course, it’s all nicely documented on Google backups, etc.
3. Google could take action against a few of these morons, to get some case law behind their rules, too. It’d be nice to shut down this racket if you can call something so naturally stupid a racket.
Consider this:
“Hi, ABCD Inc. I’d like to speak to Jack or Sue. It’s about our order.”
“Ah… Um….”
Exactly how long could you keep this farce up before the customer twigs? How happy will the customer be, to be rerouted to some pack of schmucks who can’t even pretend to be the fake listing, while not doing the business they need to do? Exactly how thrilled is the customer likely to be to meet a whole new set of idiots while attempting to do business?
It’s not all that surprising that a scam like this would be so popular. Scam artists can be remarkably dumb. Like white collar criminals, they leave an entire audit trail of the scam available for anyone to find. If anyone in enforcement, compliance or anything else did their jobs, the scammers would be too scared of severe financial consequences to even try this crap.
Moral of story: It’s tough enough for people to do business online without these adorable scammers taking up much-needed real estate as well. Case law, fraud, new rules, whatever – Search and destroy.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about Fake Google Maps business listings, Fraud, Wall St Journal Google Maps report, false advertising, civil and statutory advertising law
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