Letter to the Editor: Beware of calls offering to verify Google Business listings

To the Editor:

I’ve been hearing reports from around town that people have been receiving calls from someone claiming to be Google, offering to verify their Google Business listings for a hefty fee. So, I thought I’d clear this up.

First off, claiming and managing Google My Business listings is completely free. Google crowdsources much of its data, and it wants to have the most up-to-date and current information around. They are never going to charge you for a listing, because you are the one providing a service to them.

Full honesty, I hadn’t gotten around to verifying our Main Street Lansing listing, but I just did that before crafting this text. It took less than a minute. The process for me was this:

While logged in to Google, I searched for my own listing. In the information box, there was a piece of blue text that said “Own this listing?” I clicked that, and it gave me multiple options for verification: phone call, email, postcard in the mail, etc. I chose phone call, because it seemed to be the quickest.

As an informational note, this call did come from a robot, but since I was the one who instigated it, I knew it was legit. The robot gave me a code, I typed in the code, and my business listing was claimed. As I said, this process took about a minute.

Now, as a newly verified business, any edits I make are going to take a few days to be approved, but that’s to be expected.

So what about the calls you’ve been getting?

Technically, they’re not illegal. Just very shady and unethical. They are offering to verify your business on your behalf, and then most likely manage your business account for you. I haven’t received any of these calls, so I can’t confirm everything they claim, but that’s typically how these things go. They are essentially asking you to pay them hundreds of dollars to do something that you can do absolutely free with a couple button clicks.

It is important to note that legitimate companies do offer services like this, where they will  manage your social media accounts for you. Don’t think all of these companies are scams. But it starts to go into illegal territory when they claim to be representing Google, or if they don’t inform you that you can do this yourself at no cost.

From Google’s Support Page:

“Google telemarketing calls”

Watch out for parties calling and selling services claiming to have a special relationship with or claiming to be Google. Often, these parties are telemarketers that are not affiliated with Google and are trying to leverage the Google brand to sell your business some type of online service. Keep in the mind the following:

• Google does not place robocalls.
• Google does not call to ‘update your front page listing’ or ask you to ‘claim your free website.’
• Google does not charge for inclusion in Google Search or Google My Business.”

If you do get a call from a shady company, Google encourages you to report it to them so they can investigate and prosecute if necessary. Violations can include making repeated robocalls, claiming to be affiliated with Google, claiming that a payment is necessary to be included in Google My Business, a lack of transparency, harassment, and much more. You can report violations at this link: https://support.google.com/business/contact/gmb_3p_complaints.

I’ve seen some people suggesting adding your business line to the National Do Not Call Registry, but please note that this is not allowed. The Do Not Call list is only for personal numbers; business and fax numbers are not covered, so unfortunately you are still going to get robocalls and scam calls. You can still report scam calls to the FTC as often as they come in.

As a final note, if you haven’t verified your Google business listing, you definitely should. It’s a great, free way to show up on the largest search engine in the world. Once you do, Google may call you occasionally to verify that you’re still in business, but they will never ask for money, they will never ask for your passwords, and they will never ask for your verification codes.

I hope this was helpful, and please share this information with anyone who you believe would benefit from seeing it.

Thanks!

Andy Kelleher
Executive Director
Main Street Lansing

 

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