Directory Listings Scam Calls and Google Imposters: How to Identify Them & What to Do
In recent months, we’ve been hearing reports that our clients are experiencing an uptick in scammy robocalls from “Google.” Our clients often call us confused about why their listing is being shut down or unlisted. These calls are not real!
If a caller claims to have a special relationship with Google or even claims to work for Google, watch out. You are, more than likely, on the phone with a scammer trying to sell you an unnecessary service in order to take your money.
How to Identify Scam Calls
If companies like Google, Bing, or Yelp call you and try to sell a “directory listing” package or any other promotional package, proceed with caution. These calls are not coming from the search engines or review sites at all. Often the callers provide irrelevant or false information designed to make you think you need this package or have to pay to get listed online. These scammers can even claim to have reviewed your account internally in order to look for improvements.
One common theme is scammers reporting “250 Errors” that are preventing your listings from being shown or ranking as high as they should. When pressed for examples, though, these scammers will not be able to explain what a “250 Error” is and can’t provide verifiable examples of them on your page.
These scams are particularly egregious when the caller pretends to work for Google. There are four red flags you should consider whenever you receive a suspicious call from Google promising improvements to your SEO results:
- Google does not place robocalls.
- Google does not call to “update your front-page listing” or “claim your free website.”
- Google does not charge to be listed in results or to have a Google My Business page.
- Google never guarantees top placement for SEO results or Google AdWords. As a general rule of thumb, in fact, always be cautious when talking with any company that promises this.
Here’s some recorded audio of what these scam calls sound like:
Google is aware of these scam calls and addressed them in their Support Pages. In fact, it filed a lawsuit against one company in 2015 that used robocalls to prey on small businesses and promote a special relationship with Google that did not exist.
The FTC is also aware of the scam and is working to track down the main sources.
What Are the Consequences of Falling for this Scam?
Multiple scammers are operating these calls, which means you could face different problems with each one you face.
Some short-term scammers are just trying to get money. They will sell you a package, encourage you to pay for most of it up front, and then disappear.
Other scammers have a long-term goal. They actually try to offer a service and only create duplicate content pages for your website. Some victims continue to pay the scammer for a few months, further draining their marketing budgets. Not only can these scammers cost you more the short-term hits, they can also damage your search listings. Google could potentially view these pages as duplicate content and punish your website for shady SEO practices.
With this in mind, your company loses more than the short-term payments to the scammers. You will also have to pay for a reputable SEO company to fix your listings and then continue to pay in the form of lost revenue until your search presence is back to what it used to be.
In short, checking twice to make sure the company calling you is legitimate can save you thousands of dollars and months of frustration.
What to Do If You’re Suspicious of a Caller
If you’re unsure whether the person calling you is running a scam or you start to receive robocalls like the ones described, there are a few actions you can take:
- Get off the line as soon as you can. This will give you time to research the number and company that called you. If the caller gets aggressive or tries to keep you on the line with threats, then they’re likely a scammer.
- Reach out directly to Google, Yelp, or the company the caller claims to be from. The official customer service team can confirm whether it is real (but you can pretty much bet that the call is fake).
- Research the company or caller. We suggest you start with the Better Business Bureau. If the caller claims to be an agency with a close relationship with Google, you can research them through the BBB to determine their reputation.
- Send the information to existing SEO or marketing vendors. Reputable internet marketers like the ones on the LeadBuilder® team will have more experience handling and spotting scammers.
- Report the caller to Google. Report it using this form and also report it to the FTC. This creates a trail that both companies can use to track down scammers.
Never agree to do business with a company or share personal information with them until you are sure about its reputation and the caller’s identity.
LeadBuilder® Has You Covered
When you have a LeadBuilder® package, we carefully look at your directory listings and make corrections to them if necessary. Our Yext-certified Local Search team will manage your directory listings with transparency. We provide a user friendly portal to view all listings and we make recommendations and corrections whenever possible to ensure your business information is consistent across the web.
Our LeadBuilder® internet marketing packages also include full Google My Business support. We’ve managed, corrected, and assisted in verification for hundreds of Google My Business listings. Our local SEO experts will work with you and Google to assist in untangling the most challenging issues that come up with Google Maps and your businesses identity in search.
Krystina Lisi is s Local Search Strategist at Mediagistic. She’s an Internet enthusiast with a passion for Google Maps, YouTube, and Social Media. She also is an amateur photographer and Netflix binge-watcher who enjoys 90s sitcoms and sketch comedy. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter @krystinalisi.
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