After Fake News, Google is Battling Fake Business Profiles on Maps

Admitting that fake business profiles were luring people on Google Maps, the company has said it was working hard to remove bad actors before they could scam customers.

Reacting to media reports that Google Maps is flooded by about 11 million false listings and phone numbers that reroute to competing businesses, the company said local business scammers have been a thorn in the Internet's side for over a decade.

"Over the years, we’ve added more than 200 million places to Google Maps and every month we connect people to businesses more than nine billion times, including more than one billion phone calls and three billion requests for directions." - Ethan Russell, Product Director, Google Maps

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Occasionally, business scammers take advantage of local listings to make a profit.

They do things like charge business owners for services that are actually free, defraud customers by posing as real businesses, and impersonate real businesses to secure leads and then sell them.

"Even though fake business profiles are a small percentage of the overall business profiles on Google, local business scammers have been a thorn in the Internet's side for over a decade, said Russell.

The media reports last week claimed that majority of businesses on Google Maps that are not at their listed locations and the ones most prone to these scams include contractors, repairmen and car towing services.

According to Google, these scammers use a wide range of deceptive techniques to try to game its system. Even if they get shut them down, they change their techniques, and the cycle continues.

The company took took down more than 3 million fake business profiles last year – and more than 90 percent of those business profiles were removed before a user could even see the profile.

"Our internal systems were responsible for more than 85 percent of these removals. More than 250,000 of the fake business profiles we removed were reported to us by users," said Google.

It disabled more than 150,000 user accounts that were found to be abusive – a 50 percent increase from 2017.

"This year, we've already introduced a new way to report suspicious business profiles and have started to apply refined techniques to business categories where we're seeing an increase in fraud attempts," the tech giant said.

People can flag individual business profiles for removal. They can also report multiple business profiles at once via the business redressal form to kick off the review process.

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