Over the past several months, we have been receiving robocalls daily from a recorded message claiming that our Google Business Listing may not be claimed or verified. As a digital marketing company that focuses on local SEO, we immediately knew this call was fake. If you stay on the line long enough, this call presents you with 2 options. Option 1 is to speak to someone about your Google Business Listing and option 2 is to be removed from the list. Today, I decided to press 1 and find out more about this shady practice and to find out if they are a scam.
Update 07/21/18: Google is now going after these companies. Report them to Google using this form:
Fake Google Business Listings Call Is A Scam
Once I was connected, a representative asked me to verify that I am the owner of “insert business name here” which was actually a business I ran many years ago with a partner. Even though I no longer am part of this business, I decided to play along to discover more about this call to find out if it is a scam or something else. The representative asked me what type of service we offer and not thinking, I told him we offer “Digital Marketing” services. Immediately he told me that we do not need a Google Business Listing for that type of service.
I decided to push a little more, as I still have not discovered if this was a scam. I asked him directly if this was a scam. He then told me that they are a company which you pay to claim your Google Business Listing. After speaking with him, I did realize they are not a scam in the legal sense, however, they are running a very shady and unethical practice.
This caller never Identifies themselves as Google, however, they never state they’re not Google. Rather, their representatives act as if they are “looking you up in the system” to give you the illusion that you are talking to someone at Google. Once they find your Google Business Listing is not claimed, they will then proceed to sell you a service to claim your listing for you. Unfortunately, I could not get to this point to find out how much they were charging or discover their true identity.
These companies claim to be a Google Authorized group that can claim your listing. This is not true. Anyone can claim their listing, no group is “Google Authorized” to claim your listings.
Protect Yourself From Non-Legitimate Phone Calls From Google
Google has created a page about this phone call from Google Business Listings to help you understand how to spot them. From time to time, Google may call you to verify your business or confirm business listings. This is something they will do, however, they do provide these items that Google does not do.
Google does NOT:
- Charge you for inclusion in Google My Business or Google Search. It is free to add your site for both of these.
- Offer to improve your search ranking or manage your business’s online profile. If you are interested in this type of service, Data Driven Labs offers Local Search Optimization packages.
- Ask you for your password or verification code. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Never give this information to anyone who calls you. Google will never need this information.
- Place robocalls.
Google provides a page of information on current scams that are running including telemarketing scams.
Who Are They
First, realize, these companies are not Google. These type of calls, known as robocalls, are illegal in the United States as defined by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Google has nothing to do with them. These are unethical “marketing” companies that are trying to sell you marketing plans for verification packages. While selling services to help companies claim their listings is a legitimate service, the approach these companies take is what makes this unethical.
Google has even gone as far as filing a lawsuit against one of these unethical “marketing” companies. The suit is still working itself out, but, the suit claims that the marketing company is making false or misleading claims during the sales process to confuse consumers into believing there is some type of relationship between them and Google.
Update 9/27/2017: We received another call and were able to gather additional information. They stated that they are a Google Authorized group who will take down your information and claim your listing as Google only works with Fortune 500 companies and that Google has authorized companies such as them to work with small and medium-sized businesses. When I asked the name of their company, they told us a fake name of “PDS a Google Listings Authorized Company”. When I asked what “PDS” stood for, they would not say.
Be aware, this is not true. You can claim your listing on your own. Google will even deal with you via their support system, regardless of the size of your business.
Update 2/6/2018: Today we received a call from another company. She quickly claimed that our listing had become unlisted in February of 2016 (not true) and is scheduled for deletion (again another lie). I asked her if they are Google just to see if they would lie here. She did say they are not Google but a “Google Certified Partner”. I then asked the name of the company, she stated their name was “Local Listings”. After some further digging on the call, I was able to get her to admit she was with a company out of Cedar City, Utah.
Please realize, this company is not calling on behalf of Google. They are very careful in how they disguise themselves just skirting past the law. The fact I had to push to get their real name shows they know their service is not ethical. In the Google product forms, we found one user who had this lie told to them:
I received a call today from “Company Name” informing me that my business has been flagged for removal. They told me that I must pay a “lifetime fee” of $359.00 to keep my business listing active.
This is not true. Google will not require you to pay for your Google Business Listing to remain active. Your Google listing is free and can be managed and optimized by you, the business owner at no cost.
What Should You Do?
Don’t Hire Them!
First, do not pay these companies a dime. They are not affiliated with Google and are only selling you a product that you can do for free on your own. Instead, claim your own listing through Google and then optimize the listing yourself. It is a very simple process and does not require much work on your part. In addition, the listing is now claimed under your own Google account giving you full control of it. Once claimed, your listing will not expire, contrary to what these scam calls will suggest. Your listing will stay claimed and if you have any issues, you can contact Google directly through their support channels.
UPDATE: Google has now launched a tool to report third-parties that are running this scam. To report these callers, go fill out this form provided by Google to report them. Google has filed lawsuits against 5 of these companies already and is asking for the public to provide them with information of others that are engaging in this practice.
First, try to stop the calls from coming in. We suggest adding your business to the National Do Not Call List. All legitimate telemarketing companies are supposed to check their call list agist the National Do Not Call List and remove your number from their calling list. If they continue to call once you have added yourself to the list, file a complaint with the National Do Not Call List. This may not stop them, however, it does notify the FTC of these calls.
Second, ask to be removed from their list and to not contact you again. Again, this only works sometimes as they do not always follow through.
Third, warn others. Many of these company continue to operate because nobody else knows about this scam. Share this article with others or write your own blog post or social media message to share with other business owners. If you are part of a local chamber or business group, take a few minutes to speak to other members and warn them of this scam. There are other sites online where you can report scams such as the BBB and others. File a complaint with these types of sites to help warn others.
Leave A Comment Below
We would love to hear about your experience and understand how this scam evolves. Because legitimate marketing companies could be confused with this scam, we ask that you not use the business name.
Update: We have removed all identifiable company names & phone numbers from the comments below. Please do not post names, just your experience.