It has been reported by the Wall Street Journal that Google Maps is overrun with fake business listings and phone numbers. Around hundreds of thousands of fake listings appear on Google every month, with an estimation of about 11 million false listed businesses, according to the Journal.
Google gave clarification about this and claimed that only 0.5 percent of local searches are false listings, a different investigation by the Journal reported otherwise.
In search of plumbers in New York City, it was found that only 13 out of 20 search results were false listings, and only two of them were genuine businesses and adhered to the Google guidelines. Other businesses that are not located at their listed locations include contractors, repairmen, and car towing services, and these businesses are most prone to scams. These are referred to as “duress verticals” at Google, as these are the companies that get turned to emergencies and mostly without time to verify the business’ credibility. But the report was diluted when it was found that at least restaurants and hotels are located at their listed locations.
Though the giant company verifies if a business is genuine and legitimate by calling, mailing a postcard, or emailing a numeric code to enter a Google website, the system is an easy target to fall prey to such scams, and it is even easier for scammers to bypass with fake phone numbers and addresses. The loophole affects genuine businesses and customers alike, while Google and scammers reap the benefits. Since then, Google has taken down the false listings reported by the Journal and Google’s spokesperson also said that new defenses and high-risk business categories have now been added.
Today, when Google announced that business owners would now be getting many options to customize their company profiles on search and Maps, it seemed to be an ironic timing. Businesses can offer discounts to first-time visitors, and set cover photos to attract more audience. It seems like Google is trying to turn Maps into a robust Yelp competitor. But if the company wants to support real businesses, then it should first deal with its fake listing problem.