More and more businesses have opted to make use of the Google My Business (GMB) directory. Google My Business is Google’s version of online business listings. It is probably the most popular way to list a business in such a way. As reported at Lifewire, the search engine is used more than any other across the world.
If more of your users turn to Google than other search engines for online searching, you would want to secure a listing on its search results pages. Having free access to the listing service is another compelling benefit, mainly because usage of the Google search engine is so widespread.
Unfortunately, virtually any online platform, software, or service may attract scam artists, and GMB is no exception. This means that those who use the listing service can be vulnerable to scams. To help avoid a situation that could range from an annoyance to a disaster for your business, you should inform yourself as much as possible on potential schemes related to Google My Business.
Understanding Google My Business
To prevent your business from being harmed by a GMB scam, you will need to know the basics of the actual service. As a listings directory, GMB offers businesses a way to get essential data listed in search results pages. Viewers will see more details about a listed business than they would in other result links, so more individual will be more likely to click on the listings. On mobile devices, the pertinent data in such listings can be found at the top of a search. However, on a desktop, that same information can typically be found at the top right of the results page.
The data available in these results can include details such as the NAP (which stands for the name, address, and phone number of a business), the hours of operation, and a website and appointment URL. Other included details might be a list of services/products provided by the business, as well as a more general description of the company. Reviews and postings are important aspects of what is provided in GMB listings.
Detecting and Deterring GMB Scammers
Now that you have an idea of what Google My Business is, you will want to remember some of the ways that businesses might get scammed by criminals impersonating Google representatives. The following are some of the most common scams, as well as some of the best ways to avoid falling victim to them:
1. Fake Listing Scammers
These are people who manage to manipulate the system through the Google Map Pack, which helps direct users to local listings in their search results. A business in such a listing may have its location displayed on a map, making it easier for potential customers to find quick access to companies in their particular areas. By posting fake listings in Google Maps, some crooks have directed countless unwitting customers to their sites. This not only enables criminals to dupe individuals out of money; it also steers customers away from honest businesses.
The way many such scams work is that when a potential customer contacts a fraudulent business thinking that they are legitimate, the scam business responds and can then steal the customer from the actual company named in a listing. One of the types of businesses often affected by such schemes are contractors, especially those who may service people in urgent situations. Someone experiencing an emergency will be more likely to succumb to fees that exceed their original estimate.
To aid in preventing your business from being scammed, keep the following information in mind: First, a legitimate marketing representative is not going to call companies such as those that offer management services for SEO, business reputation, or online content. Also, they wouldn’t say they are with Google or subcontracting for Google. Any legitimate rep should be forthright about details such as his/her name, the company he/she works for, and precisely what services are being offered and at what prices.
A reputable company in small business marketing would not limit the scope of management to a single search engine such as Google, as there are several other search engines used widely by innumerable people.
2. Claims of Increased Map Rankings
In many cases, scammers may misrepresent the services they claim to offer. When you unknowingly reach someone via a scam listing, and the listing offers impossibly high results, it could well be a scam business transaction. Such a person or company might call pretending to be a reputable SEO service, and offer you higher rankings in Google Map Pack, a promise that the scammer has no intention of fulfilling.
To avoid this scam, ask the caller to detail the timeframe involved in getting such great rankings. The caller should also be able and willing to provide a guarantee in writing, and the individual should not have a problem if you mention that you plan to have an attorney examine it.
3. Calls about Updating or Upgrading
Another way that crooks may scam a business is to claim to be a Google administrative representative. A scammer might contact a business owner and claim that the listing for that business is about to expire, for example. In doing so, the scammer may be able to obtain vital data, including banking and contact information. A fraudulent caller might also offer to provide an upgrade for an additional cost, which would be an alternative way to gain access to sensitive data.
You might avoid this kind of scam by asking for the caller’s name and contact details (which you can later pass on to Google’s help team for verification.) Don’t give the caller any of your information, however. If your account needs changes or you want an upgrade, you can initiate that from your end. Also, a Google representative will not ask you to remit payment over the phone, so be wary of a caller who requests this kind of data.
After You Have Been Scammed
Unfortunately, even the best attempts at avoiding a GMB scam may not always protect you from falling victim. Be sure to report to Google any nefarious activity you have experienced. Via its help page, Google provides a way to report a comprehensive list of potential Google scams.
If you remain informed about the scams that are commonly and currently in use, you may be able to prevent a GMB scam from affecting your business. Google My Business offers a leading directory resource for numerous businesses, so don’t allow the potential for scams to inhibit you from using it!
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