Report: Google Profits from ‘Millions’ of Fake Business Listings

The Associated Press
Eric Risberg/AP

According to a recent report, many business listings on Google Maps are actually fakes, created to impersonate other firms or pretend they’re nearby. The Wall Street Journal says the Masters of the Universe are slow to remove the profitable fake listings.

According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, businesses are setting up fake locations on Google Maps in order to appear closer to certain users. In other cases, individuals are setting up fake businesses in order to impersonate legitimate firms.

The report from the Wall Street Journal states:

The ruse lures the unsuspecting to what appear to be Google-suggested local businesses, a costly and dangerous deception.

A man arrived at Ms. Carter’s home in an unmarked van and said he was a company contractor. He wasn’t. After working on the garage door, he asked for $728, nearly twice the cost of previous repairs, Ms. Carter said. He demanded cash or a personal check, but she refused. “I’m at my house by myself with this guy,” she said. “He could have knocked me over dead.”

The repairman had hijacked the name of a legitimate business on Google Maps and listed his own phone number. He returned to Ms. Carter’s home again and again, hounding her for payment on a repair so shoddy it had to be redone.

Google has failed to remove many fake listings as it profits directly from advertising on its platforms. This could cause issues for the firm as the Department of Justice prepares an antitrust investigation of the company. The Journal writes:

Often, Google Maps yields mirages, visible in local business searches of U.S. cities, including Mountain View, Calif., Google’s hometown. Of a dozen addresses for personal-injury attorneys on Google Maps during a recent search, only one office was real. A Viennese patisserie was among the businesses at addresses purported to house lawyers. The fakes vanished after inquiries to Google from The Wall Street Journal.

The false listings benefit businesses seeking more customer calls by sprinkling made-up branches in various corners of a city. In other cases, as Ms. Carter discovered, calls to listed phone numbers connect to unscrupulous competitors, a misdirection forbidden by Google rules but sporadically policed by the company.

According to online advertising specialists, there are approximately 11 million falsely listed businesses on Google Maps the majority of which are for contractors, electricians, towing and car repair services, movers and lawyers. But Google has yet to do much to crack down on these issues:

 

Google’s fraud filters sometimes ensnare legitimate businesses, freezing them out until they prove they are real.

Google Maps in March dropped all six offices of personal injury attorney Ian Silverthorne for unspecified “quality issues,” he said. Out of suspicion, he searched Google and counted 108 suspect listings in and around Orange County, Calif., where Mr. Silverthorne has an office.

He started calling the listings, he said, and found they went to a competitor, Oakwood Legal Group LLP, which operates a single Orange County office. Oakwood didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Read the full report at the Wall Street Journal here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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