There are millions of fake business listings on Google Maps, according to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal. There have been more than 200 million listings added to Google Maps over the years. According to estimates, there are roughly 11 million falsely listed businesses on any given day. Hundreds of thousands more are appearing every month.
The Journal found that 65 percent of the top 20 listings for a plumber in New York City had fake addresses. Only two of the 20 correctly listed their address and accepted customers who walk-in at that location. The paper was able to determine that the majority of addresses listed for the plumbers were fake by using Google Street View.
It’s a difficult problem to combat. There are businesses that specialize in creating fake listings for clients that want to lift their information above competitors in search results. There are companies that claim to be a local business but is actually a referral service. There are others that hijack the name of a legitimate company, but change the contact information to their own. These scams are difficult for the average consumer to spot and the wrong choice can cost the consumer a considerable amount of money.
Google has since issued a response detailing the measures it is taking to combat the problem. The company says that it is “continually working on new and better ways to fight these scams using a variety of ever-evolving manual and automated systems.” The company declined to provide further details about the measures to prevent providing pertinent information that scammers could use to get around its systems.
Google Maps product director Ethan Russell wrote that Google took down more than 3 million fake business profiles last year. He said Google’s systems identified 85 percent of the listings removed, while 250,000 were reported by users. In 2017, an academic study paid for by Google found only 0.5 percent of local searches examined were fake.