A report today from Mike Blumenthal discusses how team members from Google Maps have been phoning local businesses.
“Google has confirmed that as part of that additional level of verification, they have been calling businesses to find out business name and address.”
Over the last year, our flower shop has receiving a large number of calls (mostly from India) from IYPs asking us to verify our business information. Unfortunately, these types of calls have a well-known history of being used by scammers to elicit ‘yes’ answers to cram phone bills with bogus charges.
We’ve also received at least a dozen calls from companies claiming to represent Google Local (now Place Pages) with promises of #1 rankings – if we’ll only ‘verify’ our information and send them checks for about $300 per month. Sure.
So you can bet small businesses will be hesitant to answer Google’s queries – especially if the callers sound off-shore.
Miriam Ellis gives a terrific outline of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of this new call program over at Search Engine Guide and both she and David Mihm suggest Google send advance emails alerting businesses about the calls. Count me in the camp that sees this more as a ‘heads up’ warning to spammers to be on the alert for the verifications meant to catch them using geographic misrepresentation.
Rather than identifying themselves as Google employees, why not just call like normal customers would – and ask for the businesses’ addresses? Home-based and come-to-you businesses have mailing addresses (which they were required to provide when claiming their listings) so the odds of getting a verified answer should be high – for real local businesses.
A tip to the Google staffers: Over the phone, phony local florists usually answer “Flower Shop”, don’t give out street addresses, say they’re just off Main Street or Church Street and are located near the Pizza Hut or Dairy Queen. That description pretty much works for any city. 😉
For legit local businesses, DO take Miriam’s advice and don’t hang up!