Google’s ubiquitous internet platform shapes what’s real and what isn’t for more than two billion monthly users. Yet Google Maps, triggered by such Google searches for various businesses, is overrun with millions of false business addresses and fake names, according to advertisers, search experts and current and former Google employees.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, the ruse lures the unsuspecting to what appear to be Google-suggested local businesses but can be scams or people looking to edge out competition for services. The scams are profitable for nearly everyone involved, Google included because of the ads it sells adjacent to the listings. Consumers and legitimate businesses end up the losers.
Google says a majority of the listings for contractors, electricians, towing and car repair services, movers and lawyers, among other business categories, aren’t located at their pushpins on Google Maps.
Any storefront business can register to appear on Google Maps without buying an advertisement. Yet many legitimate businesses find that the best way to stay ahead of the phonies is to buy ads from Google.
“I don’t think Google is specifically trying to profit, but at the same time they are profiting,” said Molly Youngblood, a digital-marketing consultant from Jacksonville, Florida. Some of her clients turned to her after getting pushed from the top of Google search results by false business listings.