It’s a new robocall scam that has Google, one of the largest companies in the world, taking legal action. Small businesses across the country say they’re receiving phone calls from “local Google specialists,” but the automated voice messages aren’t really coming from Google, ZDNet writes.
The calls are being placed by marketing firms who falsely claim a link to the internet giant, then threaten small business owners that their Google listings will be deleted or scrubbed from the search results unless they pay up for “claiming and verification” services.
Google Fires Back At Robocall Scammers
While those services may or may not be real, it’s certain that none of these calls are actually being placed by representatives of Google. And the world’s largest internet company is fighting back.
In a blog post, (real) Google employee Bryan Solar told readers that the company was filing suit against two “scammer” companies and their affiliated business entities, naming Kydia Inc. and Supreme Marketing Group, Inc. as defendants.
Google believes that these two companies, which also go by the names BeyondMenu, Point Break Media and Small Business Solutions, are behind many, but not all, of the fraudulent robocalls. At least one of these companies, Point Break Media, LLC, has already been sued by the Federal Trade Commission.
Federal Trade Commission Accuses Marketing Company Of Google Fraud
In its lawsuit, the FTC accused Point Break Media of operating a “telemarketing scam in which [the company] target[s] small business owners with false threats of removal from Google’s search engines.” Charging between $300 and $700 for their services, representatives at Point Break attempt to coerce business owners into purchasing a “verification” package that would keep them in the search results.
Google verification is a real thing. In order to claim a business listing on Google, the business’ owner or representative fills out a form, then verifies their authority to do so by entering a code sent to the businesses’ address.
The entire process is free and, excluding the time it takes to mail the code, takes about 20 minutes. Point Break Media was charging up to $700 for the privilege, harassing and haranguing potential customers all along the way.
FTC: Point Break Media Stole Cash From Customer Bank Accounts
And, for nearly $1,000, the company falsely promised its targets that their site could be listed on the first page of Google’s search results, the FTC claims. But things get even worse. In 2017, Point Break Media was dropped by its payment processor.
According to prosecutors at the Federal Trade Commission, the company proceeded to write itself $100 checks out of customer bank accounts to stay afloat. At the same time, its representatives continued to present themselves as “third party service providers” for Google and Bing, despite having no connection to either company.
Federal Court Grants Injunction Against Fraudulent Behavior
In May, the US District Court of Southern Florida granted the FTC’s request for an injunction, prohibiting Point Break Media from falsely claiming a connection to Google and from threatening customers about the removal of their business listings.
But Google’s own case against the company, alongside the suit against Kydia Inc. (which represents itself as a website designer for restaurants), could have an even bigger impact. Imagine being a small internet marketing company, then finding yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit brought by one of the world’s most powerful tech companies. You probably wouldn’t feel very confident.
New Tool Helps Business Owners Report Robocall Scams
Google’s also released a new tool to help small business owners report violations of its My Business policies. The first complaint on the list? Companies making repeated robocalls.