When people search for your business or services you offer, your Google Business Profile can appear in the results. This makes it one of the most important resources in your online marketing strategy. But scammers are trying to hijack Google Business Profiles and take them over. Don’t let it happen to you! We cover why scammers are doing this, what types of scams there are, how to protect yourself against these scams, and what you should do if you do fall victim to a scam.
How Google Business Profile scams can impact your business.
You can add your business to Google’s search engine by setting up a Google Business Profile, which gives you a presence on Google search result pages. Your listing can include information such as your business name and address, website link, map location, hours of operation, and ratings from other customers. By taking over your account, scammers can change your name and lock you out of your account. They can use access to your account as a way of extorting funds from you. If you’ve put time into nurturing a trustworthy and authentic listing, scammers can use this to contact your listing visitors and direct them to other pages. Scammers can even sell your listing to someone else or rent it out for spamming purposes.
Competitors can hack your profile, too. They could redirect links to their website or change your contact information. Hackers who aim to be simply disruptive can also alter information on your page in a way that damages your reputation.
Google Business Profile scams come in many forms.
Google Business Profile scammers and hackers have a variety of ways to take control and use your listing to their advantage. Here are four of the most common listing scams:
1. Request access scam: The “Own this business?” feature allows anyone to request ownership of a business listing. Google will send an email asking for login information in an attempt to gain access. The email is legitimate, however, the request will be from someone not associated with your company or digital marketing agency. If you accidentally provide permission, the scammer could change the name of your listing and lock you out of your account.
2. Phone call scam: You might receive a call from someone who claims to be a Google representative. This person will try to convince you to pay for Google Business Profiles, which are free and don’t expire. In other cases, they might try to sign you up for listing management services that Google doesn’t offer.
3. Suggest an edit scam: When a company or individual has unethical competitors, they can potentially update information on your profile. Google provides a “Suggest an edit” button that can allow people to tweak your listing information. By adding the incorrect website, for example, they can impact your website traffic from this listing, even sending people to questionable websites. By changing your address, they can reduce your presence in local search results.
4. Fake reviews: Spam emails, like scams, are designed to trick people into clicking on links and giving away personal information. Fake reviews can also be added to your list with the intention of compromising your rankings and people’s perception of your brand.
Here are some tips to help protect your profile from scams.
When it comes to your Google Business Profile, you want to make sure it’s set up right. A lot of people think that once they’ve created their listing, it’s done. But the more time you spend on it and the more proactive you are about managing it, the better off your business will be. Here are 10 ways to keep on top of your listing and prevent any future issues:
1. Verify and monitor your listing: To secure your listing, you should claim it and verify your business. This can help you identify and prevent any future scams as you will have notifications sent to your email address when any edits or requests are made on your listing.
2. Limit access to your account: By limiting the number of people who have access to your listing, you can make it less likely to be compromised. You can also limit page access levels depending on the specific functions provided by each employee.
3. Use the same email for your accounts: It’s a good idea to use the same email address from your business domain for Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts. This will help ensure that both accounts are managed by the same person or organization should you need to prove it in the case of a malicious request or hacking.
4. Respond to request access emails ASAP: To prevent someone from accessing your account, you need to reject attempts to log in to your account within three business days. You should not ignore or delete these emails as a hacker or scammer might get the option to claim the profile after this period has lapsed. After you’ve rejected the email address, you might receive a few more requests for ownership under different names.
5. Hang up on dubious calls: Google says they will not call you to make unsolicited sales pitches but will phone only to confirm your business details for Google Maps, make reservations or schedule appointments on behalf of Google users.
If you receive a call from an unfamiliar number and are unsure of the legitimacy of the caller, do not press any keys prompted by voice recordings. If you believe the call is legitimate, ask the caller to send you an email from a Google email account (@google.com email) to verify their identity.
6. Prevent any brute force logins: This strategy uses trial and error to guess your login information. To overcome this, choose a strong password of at least 12 characters long that includes a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
7. Install a firewall: This is important to protect your computer and data. Hacker or malware attacks can come from any source, so you need a firewall that blocks unsolicited or unwanted traffic. It assesses incoming traffic for signs of hackers or malware that could infect your computer and steal data.
8. Always update your software: Hackers exploit any weaknesses in your software or operating system. Software updates patch up these security flaws to keep hackers out and your computer protected.
9. Report any violations to Google: Google has created a tool that enables you to report scams and policy violations and provide the specific information needed for them to take action against these third parties.
You can also flag reviews that you feel are off-topic, spammy, or inappropriate. Find the review in your listing’s review section and click on “Report review”.
10. Keep abreast of Google’s security updates: The Google Business Profile support page is a good place to find updates about new changes to the service and announcements about the latest security updates. For example, if a new owner or manager has been added to an existing Business Profile, they must wait seven days before they can manage all the features of their profile.
What to do if you’ve lost control of your profile.
If an unauthorized person has taken control of your Google My Business listing, don’t panic–there are steps you can take to regain control. First, check with team members or an outside marketing firm to see if one of them has taken over the account. You can use the “Request Ownership” feature on the listing and follow the prompts to regain control of your profile. If this doesn’t work, contact Google’s support team and start the reclaiming process by filling out this form. The checkbox you’d select is “Third-party claimed your business profile without your consent or extorted consent from you”. Google also has a dedicated Google My Business Facebook page and Twitter profile (@googlemybiz) you can message (through commenting) or tweet at if you experience any additional challenges.
Keep your listing in good shape with Inwebify
When you own your Google Business Profile listing, you can control the information and images that appear on it. If you want to give potential customers more confidence in your business, entrust it with property marketing and Inwebify experts. Inwebify offers a set-up service to help you take ownership of your listing and add in all the important information required. We also provide a monthly management service to add fresh content to keep your listing engaging. Contact your Account Manager or visit our add-ons page to get started.