Google Maps vs Locksmith Spammers: Spammers winning?

The Locksmith industry has always looked to me like an industry of self dealing and dishonest promotion that, when combined with Google Maps, created a mosh pit of sleaze. As a result I never examined it very closely in the context of Google Maps.

Locksmiths are a little hard to love. They aren’t Mom and Apple Pie, they aren’t florists who we can all identify with when things go wrong. The industry is hyper-competitive and they have been at the forefront of cracking all sorts of locks, unfortunately not always the ones that they should be cracking. They were early into blackhat reviews, one of the dominant sources of bulk upload spam and were first to the party in compromising the records claimed in the Local Business Center.

Google wasn’t their first target. The “blackhats” in the industry have used whatever marketing vehicle was “au courant“, whether it was the phone books, 411 or now Google and Yahoo.

Here is a BBB alert from 2007, BBB Warns Consumers of Nationwide Locksmith Swindle and a recent ABC news article and video. The Associated Locksmiths of America provides a list of over 110 news reports over the past several years from across the nation detailing the abuses*. As you can see, consumers have paid the price of these many scams with high prices, rip-off installs and even theft.

But the reality is that Locksmiths come in varying shades from white to black and consumers are not the only ones short changed when the blackhats are allowed to abuse the system. The legitimate locksmiths suffer as well. Folks like PureSheer feel it necessary to go “black” to compete but many are just left with the loss of business and no real understanding why.

Google is changing the playing field of local marketing and they are defining it in a whole new way. They are on the battle lines between doing it right and letting the “bad guys” have their way. If Verizon can pull a hundred thousand phone listings from the directory, is it too much to ask of Google to be vigilant and proactive?

Here is a search,”emergency locksmiths NY NY” on Google that shows how deeply the problem is embedded in Google and why they need to be more proactive in their mapspam battles. This search highlights not just the spam problems but the downsides of some of Google’s decisions around the Local 10 Pack. It illustrates why it might be a good idea to refine it in such a way as to prevent “branded” searches from dominating an obviously generic search and to minimize the impact of the business title on relevance and rank.

locksmith-spam

Every number here goes to the same call center, located who knows where, for dispatch of (at best) third party providers. A quick count in Maps of the domains showed over 5000 listings.

The problem is not just in NYC but rather it is nationwide. As you fan out across the US, every major market seems to be polluted with a criss crossing network of spammy listings often dominating the 10 Pack:

emergency locksmith miami
emergency locksmith dallas

Each number in the domains often leads to the same call center as above. You often can switch the name of the cities (in each domain) or the location of the word ‘locksmith’ in it & you’ll find that it is often owned by the same folks or others with similar intentions.

Another search technique that uncovers lots of similar and probably related listings is to add the three digit area codes to the search. I have not tested all of these domains but the result is likely the same:

emergency locksmith 866 chicago
emergency locksmith 866 San Diego
emergency locksmith 866 los angeles

Here is a measles eye view of the locksmith “locations” in San Francisco (also see NYC view) that graphically portrays the extent of the index pollution problem:

measelsviewsf

Isn’t it time for Google to stop reacting to spam and establish a more proactive policy of removing it from their index? Is banning a few blackhats enough? Should they not be actively searching them out and banning them all?

* Here is one with no little irony: Blagojevich Administration Suspends License of Dependable Locksmith for False License Information

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Maps vs Locksmith Spammers: Spammers winning? by

105 thoughts on “Google Maps vs Locksmith Spammers: Spammers winning?”

  1. Our experience on YellowBot shows locksmiths don’t just try to enhance their own listings…they also try to take out the competition. Recently, one locksmith gave their business a glowing review…then proceeded to give 15 or so horrible reviews of nearby competitors, all within minutes of each other. 🙁

  2. Wow, just read that scam alert on the Holly Tree link. Funny in your first “measles” post I commented that a density as high as that looked like the locksmith industry was ripe with money laundering activities. Obviously most those measles are fake spam listings but still goes to my assumption that organized crime was connected to it.

    Now, with the transparency that the internet provides, maybe this issue can get pressed at the state level and the locksmith industry move towards licensing like in California.

    The guy writing the Holly Tree article likes to focus on the Israeli organized crime groups. It’s the “blame the foreigners” knee jerk reaction, but I would bet money on their being other home grown organized crime groups doing the same in that industry.

    @Yellowbot, do you have flags that come up when one user goes and submits multiple reviews in one industry? Do you use any automated systems to alert you of potential abuse of the system?

  3. Hi Stever-

    Yes the problem is widespread and probably does involve organized criminal activity be a few of the folks..while there is a certain racism in the accusations there is also (as is sometimes the case) a grain of truth as well.

    This was posted in Google Maps Support several weeks ago:

    The attorney for the Associated Locksmiths of America is Tim McMullen. Please contact him at legislative@aloa.org complaints are pouring in from all over the country. This is the florist bit all over again with a slightly different tactic. Just google locksmith scams, this is a small group of individuals being investigated by numerous states. This isn’t alot of people, please aid the investigators from the states to shut this down, people are being ripped off on a huge scale.

    so maybe it will be taken to that level….

    I too wonder how Yellobot deals with this onslaught

    Mike

  4. You know, Mike, there is something so unsavory about locksmiths being engaged in underhanded practices. I mean, these are people who could make copies of your house key, car keys, etc. That picture doesn’t look good to me…

    Emad – I’m becoming mighty impressed with your proactive following of Local Search issues and the good reflection that is on YellowBot. I’d like to second Mike’s question as to how YellowBot might prevent this, and would also like to ask what you did about the 15 bad reviews and the culprit who left them.

    Sounds like Google might need to take a page from YellowBot’s book.

    Miriam

  5. @Miriam

    It is unsavory indeed and the potential for losses are significant.

    It seems to me that unless Google decides to clean up the index, there is little to be done. Perhaps, as Dave O noted to me, they should just not show Locksmith results in the Universal Local results until they can figure it out (if ever).

    They are not an easy industry to like as I note, the only time one does business with them is when there is a problem…so even the best of them have bad associations. But the worst of them are pretty bad, thats for sure.

    Mike

  6. Hello,
    First off, the “guy” at Under the Holly Tree is a “gal”, me.

    Let’s start with this,
    “The Locksmith industry has always looked to me like an industry of self dealing and dishonest promotion”

    Talk about slander and sleeze? Each geographical area has a LEGITIMATE locksmith legally registered trade union. These people have business licenses and train their locksmiths in apprenticeships for a year or more. A TRADE that has been around for hundreds of years and is well respected. It is these scam artists that DO happen to all be Israelis who have given legitimate locksmiths a bad name.

    Now you may be wondering, it’s not enough that I posted all the articles about these being Israelis, you are saying that either I or those writing the articles are racists. Nope, and I have personal knowledge because I happen to KNOW one of these “Israeli” locksmiths.

    Let me begin, before going to a location outside Washington DC to receive his ONE WEEK training, this fellow, “Aaron” worked for another Israeli illegal business here in the US, mall kiosks. That Dead Sea Salt stuff, neck warmers, curling irons, other various holiday items stuff you see in malls not only here but in other countries as well, ALL Israelis and unless they are duel citizens of the US/Israel, they also are here on tourist visas working illegally. This company does the same thing, lures them over here with promises of big bucks made on commission, houses them all in one condo close to that mall, gives them a car to share, and off they go to the mall. Don’t believe me? Maybe you will believe this article from the JEWISH JOURNAL.
    http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/item/illegal_israelis_lured_to_mall_kiosks_20060908/

    So, after “Aaron” who happens to be a duel US/Israeli citizen and his wife (here on tourist visa, Israeli-she did the curling irons) didn’t make the fortune they had been promised, “Aaron” decided to go the locksmith route. So off to DC he went. He had to put up his own money for his “tools” of the trade. Then a city was picked, Berkley, CA.
    Off they went. He carried a cell phone where he could be reached by the 1-800 number in New Jersey where ALL the calls for the various named scam locksmith companies in ALL cities are sent to. They get the call, they call “Aaron” to go out to do his work. He gets there, he gives the higher quote than was given on the phone because “it’s more complicated”. “Aaron” depending on how much he can jack up the price gets to make his “commission”

    But Berkley police are on to them, the heat is on, “Aaron” and his wife are outta there.

    You mention YelloBot. Why not mention the Yellow Pages on the internet started by one Bobby Kalili in Los Angeles (his company also has several different civisions

    YELLOWPAGES.travel Donates to Multiple Jewish Charities
    YELLOWPAGES.travel, a tool that enables users to search the top 12 travel websites with one click, has launched a charity program where it will donate 15% of its net profits to multiple charitable organizations including the Israeli Defense Fund (IDF), Simon Weisenthal Center, and the Jewish Federation.

    http://sev.prnewswire.com/computer-electronics/20071204/LATU03904122007-1.html

    Sorry, the the IDF is NOT a charity, it is the military of Israel. All these advertisements for ALL these phony Israeli scam locksmiths are happily advertised on the internet Yellow Pages which has NOTHING to do with the real Yellow Pages which has been around for over a hundred years and is now a subsidiary of ATT. Problem is, the little logo, fingers do the walking, was NOT patented, so Bobby Kalili took that logo and slapped it on his own company which LOOKS like what you think of as the Yellow Pages of ATT but it is NOT.

    I have to wonder, if all the proof in the world was given you that ALL these scam locksmiths were Chinese, and then you have a CHINESE internet advertising company advertising them as if they are legitimate, would you say that was racist?

    Again, ALL these mall kiosks are run by Israelis, even the Jewish Journal tells you so! ALL these phony locksmiths are Israeli, and the YellowPages on the internet send “charitable funds” to the military of Israel.

    Think about it, substitute Chinese, Mexican, Nigerian, Russian, whatever you want, THESE companies are none of these, they are ISRAELI.

  7. Robin

    Woah…slow down girl…you are going to give yourself a heart attack.

    I said: The Locksmith industry has always looked to me like an industry of self dealing and dishonest promotion that, when combined with Google Maps, created a mosh pit of sleaze.

    And I provided plenty of proof that it is pretty sleazy…that doesn’t mean I think that all locksmiths are, its means that it was/is difficult to easily distinguish. But in the end I did write about it and in the end (if you read the whole story) I am defending those locksmiths that are honest and hard working.

    As for ALL, your specific example of Aaron and the Mall is hardly proof of all illegal or dishonest locksmiths being Israeli…but in the end it doesn’t matter…a dishonest locksmith is a dishonest locksmith. That is what I was writing about. That and the need for Google to stop allowing these shysters (regardless of ethnicity) to pollute local listings and deceive the public.

    I am not sure who and why you are so mad, but there is no need to take it out on me. I think if you read what I wrote carefully, you will find that we are likely on the same side of the issue that bad locksmiths should not be given a forum.

    Mike

  8. The above post makes me sick. IMHO you should remove it. It only taints a venue that has had a great variety of helpful insightful comments about local issues. This is not the place for hate commentary.

  9. Mike,
    Did you link to the Jewish Journal article?

    Please read it.

    This is a community “under the radar”, they ARE all connected. “Aaron’s”
    uncle is in the Mossad.

  10. Robin

    I am curious about why you take this issue so personally? Are you a locksmith? Were you robbed by illicit locksmiths? What exactly is your frame of reference?

    Mike

    PS Aaron’s affiliations are of little interest to me as is his nationality. It adds little to the discussion about abuse of listings in Local by locksmiths.

  11. Dude (correction, dudette), I see no reason whatsoever to focus on whether or not they are Israeli. They could be Chinese, Mexican, French Canadian, or Native American, or all the above, and you still have the exact same problem.

    What these criminal organizations, and all other un-ethical business practices occurring in that industry, by anyone of any religious/national/political/racial background, are doing is wrong and needs to be cleaned up. If you want to be a voice for that change stop screaming ISRAELI, ISRAELI, ISRAELI and just cut to the facts that matter.

    Otherwise it does smell like racism.

  12. Why is it racism? I asked a simple question, if you substituted any other nationality would that be racism? My point is that these are not Americans doing this. You’ve got all the Nigerian internet email scams going on. Is it racist to say they are Nigerian?

    I’m not mad at you Mike and I also am not going to have a heart attack. I just happen to know all this because “Aaron” is the son of my best friend who lives here in the States now and is an Israeli citizen herself.

  13. @Steve
    Well said.

    @Dave
    I am not one to remove a post…I apologize if you are offended.

    My goal would be to try to bring reason to the table and ferret out the facts. I am not sure whether Robin wants to participate in that process or not, but I would like to find out.

    Mike

  14. Mike,
    My point is only that this is organized crime and it is not American. I happen to respect the laws of my own country, only one of which are the laws concerning illegals working here. On the mall kiosk thing as well as the locksmith thing, these kids are being taken advantage of BIG TIME by the criminals running the various endeavors. They rake in the bucks and believe me, that article in the Jewish Journal says they can make up to $800 a day, but I KNOW this is rare. When I was researching the article I did about this I was in phone contact with a fellow who was head of one of the locksmith union groups. These people work very hard at what they are doing and you have foreigners, and I don’t care what country they are from, coming in and screwing things up for them when they are LEGITIMATE. That just isn’t right in my book. This is crime pure and simple, and allowing them to advertise on their search engine (Yellow Pages) when you know darn well these are all scams is ALSO wrong. You might ask Emad who I see is a co-founder of YelloBot if he knows Bobby Kalili, they’re both from LA and both in the same line of business. If he does know him, it might be wise to point out that he is advertising PHONY scam artist locksmiths who come in, rip you off, mess up your locks, and then you have to call in a legitimate locksmith to fix the mess.

  15. Wow, the comments here have taken an unexpected turn. Robin is clearly passionate about this subject and it sounds as though she has had some personal experiences that have left a bitter taste in her mouth.

    That being said, whether the people who are doing this are primarily Israeli, Maori or Martians, I think your commentary repeatedly citing Israelis is rubbing people the wrong way, Robin. I would prefer not to see this as an Israeli problem but an honesty problem, no matter what the ancestory of the people behind it. Explaining that the people whom you have encountered engaging in these unsavory practices are ‘not Americans’ may strike some readers as inflammatory or bigoted, even if that is not your intention. I think it is the way you are framing your accusations against spurious locksmiths that are making this discussion concerning for some of the readers here.

    Miriam

  16. @Miriam
    Thanks

    @Robin
    You have not shared with us WHY you are so engaged in this issue. Me? I want Google to get it right, I want Local to be everything that it can be…You? What is your interest in this topic?

    Were you robbed by these folks? Are you or your family locksmiths? You need to provide us with some context so we can better understand.

    Mike

  17. I thought I made myself pretty clear. These people are criminals.

    I seem to have come here because this website linked to me. Isn’t it about maps? (part of it at least?)

    Would anyone honestly be saying this is racist if they were Martians or Maori criminals? They aren’t just stealing your money, they are working here totally illegally. So now we have ________workers not following immigration laws of the US and furthermore, many of them are going around stealing your money and breaking your locks. Needless to say “locks” might be some sort of shady business to be in in the first place, like someone wrote above. OK, fine, couldn’t be breaking immigration laws though if they weren’t from another country now could they? But let’s just leave out this particular name, that name might “rub someone the wrong way” and you might be accused of racism. Good thing this isn’t the Italian Mafia, the Armenian Mafia or the Russian Mafia, the Chinese Mafia, the “MARTIAN” (ets anyone?) or MAORI mafias, we’d just leave those “racist” particulars out of it.

    Back to search engines, “YellowPages”

    ATT isn’t too happy about it either because the wording on the internet Yelllow Pages states specifically:

    “YellowPages Corporation, an entity that has been providing business directories for nearly 100 years has now stepped into the travel market with YELLOWPAGES.travel.”

    http://sev.prnewswire.com/computer-electronics/20071204/LATU03904122007-1.html

    Well no, the internet YellowPages corporation founded by Bobby Kalili is a startup organization
    http://ypcommando.com/blog/2007/04/08/toll-free-yellow-pages-raises-a-325-million-war-chest/

    The Yellow Pages that HAS been around for over a hundred years is this
    http://www.lmberry.com/

    Leading the Yellow Pages Industry since 1910

    L.M. Berry (a subsidiary of AT&T) was founded in 1910 by Yellow Pages pioneer Loren M. Berry to provide Yellow Pages sales and publishing services to the telecommunications industry. Today, L.M. Berry is an industry leader in the automation of sales strategies, and the emerging electronic commerce and Internet Yellow Pages industries.

    L.M. Berry has two distinct lines of business including:

    Berry Network, Inc., Berry Network is an integrated media agency specializing in local/national search engine optimization, 3rd screen marketing, IPTV and internet/print directory services. BNI has in-depth knowledge about the consumer buying patterns of tomorrow via its access to the largest consumer buyer database in the world.

    The South Central Area manages AT&T’s directory business in a five-state region (Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee)
    __________________

    Also-it’s interesting, the term “yellow pages” has a history
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_pages

    “The familiar “walking fingers” logo is not protected as a trademark and may be used by anyone. This logo is used in varying forms by almost every YP publisher; however, there are companies that use it to imitate mainstream publisher”

    If you just google “yellow pages” you’ll come up with 18,700,000 hits.
    but if you research the name that has been around for 100 years there is only one-Loren M. Berry who sold his company to AT&T for an estimated one billion dollars.

  18. Wow – what a powder keg of emotions. Rather unexpected for a Google Maps discussion.
    However very eye opening.

    What kind of obligation does Google have with regards to cleaning up this mess legally? Do they even know the root of the problem with the Locksmith spamming. Do they even care about that. Are they legally bound to do something about it? And if so what?

    Perhaps it’s the what more than the why. You’d have to do some pretty fancy schmancy coding to be able to determine what is bad and what is good, and I would think that is done by doing some old fashioned leg work like what others here have done. Pick up the phone and do some investigating.

    Are they, Goggle, willing to invest that kind of work/time into a bunch of free lisitngs.

    Accountability – it’s something they don’t believe in. Yet. I can always dream though.

    Joan

  19. @Joan

    All great questions. The legal foundation that Google would hide behind is likely the Communications Decency Act that protects them from 3rd party uses of their platform…while Google MAY be protected in a strict legal sense, it is never a positive thing to be viewed as an accessory to crime.

    Legal arguments aside there are very strong ethical and business case arguments for Google to do whatever it takes to clean this mess up.

    A simple beginning, suggested by Dave, would be to pull down the Locksmith Universal Local results. This would give them some time to get it right.

    Certainly the black locksmiths are motivated and fast moving, it will be a social and technical challenge for Google but I for one, am cheering them on. Otherwise what you are are seeing above is the future of local which is no future at all.

    God forbid that they should actually pick up the phone or put some feet on the streets though.

    Mike

  20. Interesting – but again without picking up a phone or doing the beat how would they know simply by looking at the Maps/Universal listings these Locksmiths are part of ill-gotten-gains?

    Some concerned Mappers and Anti Spammer vigilants, such as yourself Mike, would have to nail this to their front revolving doors.

    I’m not suggesting at all they do nothing, but it’s easy to do nothing when you aren’t “aware” of anything Nefarious going on.

    I guess if taking down the Univeral search for Locksmiths is a step in the right direction until they can come up with some ingenious plan to swarth these dastardly doers.

    And on a personal note, wow, now I know why those kiosks at the Malls have some many foriegners working there. How horrid.
    We have them, unfortunately, here in the Great White North as well. What a shame. Good thing I didn’t buy any of the products – I thought the prices were somewhat inflated. Know I know why.

  21. Joan,
    The mall kiosk workers are basically being pimped out by the owners of the kiosks. These kids are lured over here as the Jewish Journal article writes straight up. Once here on tourist visas which do NOT allow for working here, they then are put to work at the malls. Just google it (here we go) and you will find several articles complaining about being accosted at the malls. This is simply because they put several workers at one kiosk and they are working on commission, it is cut throat. They are all put up together in condos and then have to pay their “landlord” for their rent. They work long hard hours and yes some of them do make money, but it is RARE for them to make a lot because there are more and more of them. It is an AWFUL position for these kids to be put in, they have to hide from immigration, try to pounce on customers before their fellow workers do, while all the time the kiosk owner is making big bucks. It IS pimping.

    The locksmiths are a far different angle, while the kiosks are selling legitimate products (albeit over-priced, and just notice, they will all of a sudden come up with a “deal”-so they CAN make a commission-a natural thing to do when you HAVE to make money), the locksmiths are 1) not professionally trained locksmiths 2) rip you off by quoting one price on the phone and then knocking you up for a higher price when they get there AND messing up your locks 3) putting legitimate locksmiths out of business by this (sorry I’m not an internet person so I might be using the wrong term) spamming of addresses. It’s not just on Google maps, it’s on every internet search you would possibly use to look up a locksmith.

    Every single person wants to know that when they call someone to fix their locks they can depend on who they call. Locks are a bit of a funny thing, it is your security. Your SECURITY is being threatened by these phony locksmiths who have no ethics about performing legitimate work as opposed to legitimate locksmiths who DO have ethics concerning their business.

    Locks=security

    Phony locksmiths=a breech of your security.

    Would Google allow phony doctors to spam the internet?

    It might be a legitimate question to ask them.

  22. @Robin: An even better question to ask is, once Google is notified of a lawyer, who hold a position of public trust, and who falsely represents his or her firm name, or address to spam maps, how long will they take, if ever, to delete the BS listings?

  23. Mike –

    As always, thanks for the great coverage. The measles analogy is perfect.

    I scanned a page from one of our Local Yellow Pages and the spam there is basically replicated in Google Maps. More and more, it appears the YPs, and especially the biggest IYPs are the preferred entry point for map spammers.

    The flower business got hit with a huge amount of bogus local florist listings in the last few weeks and the vast majority can be traced to entry via IYPs.

    Cathy

  24. @Cathy

    I realized that Google was had gotten the listings from the phone books I just didn’t quite get it that every time a new phone book comes out that these listings are going to popup all over again…duh! Nice job on the article.

    @Panzermike
    Do lawyers not have a self enforced code of ethics and a review board that looks at shady legal practices that you can take your complaint to?

    Mike

  25. I’m Rob Reynolds with Pop-A-Lock, we are a large multi location locksmith chain. I also coordinate much of our own SEO and SEM activities particularly the Google maps/local business listing efforts.

    I’m also the central figure in our company combating the scammer/spammer issue. This is a highly emotional issue for locksmith all over but one thing is correct this has nothing to do with the fact that most of the players are Israeli. The fact that illegal aliens are being recruited to work here in a multi state fraud is very relevant because it will eventually allow Rico statutes to apply once this gets to a federal case level. What particular nationality is irrelevant and only distracts/detracts from the valid arguments.

    The fix for Google is actually quite simple as is the fix for the Yellow Page publishing industry. In a joint meeting with our CEO, our Attorney, a former FBI official, the Attorney for Aloa and several key figures in the locksmithing industry involved in the investigation of scammers, we came up with a simple set of ‘best practices’ that if followed would kill this phenomenon within a year.

    1. Do not allow any new entries into the Google local directory, any IYP or in the Yellow Page categories of Locksmith or Keymaker without a valid DBA certificate issued by the state that the add will present in.

    2. Do not allow and address to be submitted unless proof of address is presented for the address requested.

    3. If the state requested or city requested is one of the current 9 states that require a locksmith license or New York City, Long Island or Washington DC, then require that license number be submitted and presented in the ad.

    In the case of Google there is a very simple step that they could do that they are already set up to handle: Require Post Card validation of any listing in the categories related to locksmithing. However, do not require that the address be posted in the ad itself.

    In other words: suspend every listing with no address listed, if an address is listed send the post card and reactivate upon receipt of the pin number. Allow a new listing but force an address to be inputted (but allow it to be hidden except for the city and state see below why) but force the post card pin validation for any new listing.

    Why allow people to hide the address: Most locksmith are mobile only service (as evidenced by the http://www.aloa.org, http://www.thenationalocksmith.com polls and the http://www.clearstar.com polls of their members) and listing the home address causes safety concerns as well as misleading the public to thinking they can just drive over and have service performed.

    Why force the City and state. This will limit the out of state companies from concealing their whereabouts. They can still post their numbers and ads in googl, however if they have no tru local precense the ‘New York, New York’ city and state will be associated with the ad an minimize the black hat efforts.

    I am available to discuss these issues either through our corporate office, through our attorney or if google feels more comfortable they can directly contact the representative of TMP who can then in turn discuss the issue with us. Since I do represent a private company with a large stake in this issue, Google is welcome to contact the rep from Aloa who is representing not only their membership but the locksmith industry at large.

    Tim McMullen JD is available at legislative@aloa.org

    I am available at pop@lock.com

    Thanks and thanks to the efforts of Map Guide Jena nd Map Guide Adam for helping with this problem but the outstanding issues that we have with other companies having our Authorotative One Box result for local “Pop a lock + city name” still exist. Please see map spam complaint on the water cooler site related to “Pop a lock oakland” searches.

  26. Cathy wrote: ” The flower business got hit with a huge amount of local florist listings” and gave a link.

    Over there at the link it is written: All the listings I tested in California were found only in YellowBook.com

    YellowBook.com Executive Team
    http://corporate.yellowbook.com/about/executive-team/

    Their corporate responsibility page reads in part
    “By maintaining the highest standards of corporate responsibility in the workplace, the environment, and the community, we deliver value to our users, advertisers, and employees.”

    “USERS”, that would be those turning to them for listings.

    Their contact info is at the bottom.

    Also YellowPages.com according to the link, this one is the REAL deal, the ATT subsidiary. Notice what it states on their “terms and conditions” page about trademarks etc., but here’s a real “out”

    http://www.yellowpages.com/about/terms

    “NO ENDORSEMENTS MADE BY YELLOWPAGES.COM: We do not investigate, represent or endorse the accuracy, legality, legitimacy, validity or reliability of any products, services, deals, coupons or other promotions (“Promotions”) or Materials, including advice, ratings, and recommendations contained on, distributed through, or linked, downloaded or accessed from the YELLOWPAGES.COM Web sites.”

    Superpages:http://www.superpages.com/yellowpages

    See at the very bottom where it says Copyright © 2009 Idearc Media ”
    That is Verizon
    http://www.idearc.com/about.jsp

    So, let me see here, and this is a serious question here to anyone who may be able to answer it. Now that this website has proven the “measles” and that there is absolute truth that scam artists are using spam listings to compete and put other legitimate business out of business, just what can be done? Does this fall into the crack, “nothing can be done about it”? Is it, OH boy WOW look at that, or do any of the users here have any suggestions of what YOU can do. You see I doubt very much these legitimate businesses, mom and pop stores or individually owned franchises can do anything themselves because they don’t have the legal wherewithal, or they just might not know period. Class action? I don’t know. What are the legalities surrounding false advertising, it the burden on the one placing the false ad or does the advertiser, in this case all these various shades of the “Yellow Pages” have a burden of responsibility to their users as well? This isn’t just one false listing being placed, these are MASSIVE false listings.

  27. First of all as one that just discovered this wonderful blog, I wanted to thank Mike and the rest of the users here, for all these intelligent and interesting posts and discussions on such an important issue.
    This thread is packed with emotions and excitement – which just goes to show what an impact Google maps has on our lives.
    I would like to address the “Israeli” issue. There is no doubt that, for some reason, many Israelis play a significant role in this trade (locksmith biz owners, locksmiths, and seo specialists). However, some of them are decent, honest, American citizens – and some are evil-doers. The “Israeli” bit, is totally irrelevant to the real issue, which is Google’s many holes in their map application. I hope things do stir up, and Google will take responsibility for this spawned monster.

  28. Yes, it all fits. Every one I’ve run into had at least two people in the car, usually a girlfriend I guess, riding shotgun, and the scammer ready to gouge another “American pig”. Problem is, I love America and still take seriously the words: I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which protect my country and protect our American way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense. Everything about these scammers that I have managed to catch on a job is like they had some kind of military training. I am not ashamed to say that I will show the same degree of intimidation towards them that they have shown to me in hijacking my listings, duplicating my listings, destroying the goodwill I have built on each and every geoname locksmith company I own. What was once a very effective way for people to find me has been used in a very unholy way. It just so happens it is Israelis, OK, so they are now my enemy, not because they are Israelis, but because of there complete disregard for fair business practices which legitimate locksmiths have practiced for years. If I called yourcompany.com and told you its great you own the domain name for my trade name, but you can’t pretend to be me, and you laugh at me, then you will suffer my wrath. For most of my trade names I already own the domain name, but they will still present themselves as “Pasadena Locksmith” in google search results when they don’t own the trade name OR domain name. This is confusing to the consumer that finds 20 to 30 Pasadena Locksmiths in a search result for Locksmith Pasadena, when in fact, there is only one licensed entity using the name. The customers rarely have your card in an event which requires immediate locksmith response, so they are at the mercy of those who know how to exploit google, and don’t own any names they use other than the domain name.

  29. @harold, a phrase like ‘Pasadena Locksmith’ is not and never will be an exclusive trade name. The trademark office will never let you register it as such. It’s too generic. You can be the first in a specific location to register it as a business name, at the business license office, or state name registry, but that offers you no real protection and exclusive use of the term other than being able to have that name on your bank checks.

  30. Regarding the Israeli phony locksmith scammers.

    I am shocked to see people attacking robin and accusing her of racism. No one has stated anything foul about the jewish people or religion in general. I find it fasinating that when a fact is pointed out, such as the one that these scammers are just about all Israelis, not nigerians, chinese, or even black , white, or whatever. They just about all lead to Israelis who are using travelors from Israel to do their dirty work to fleece the public usually in violation of federal work laws.

    I have spent 6 years digging into what I can find out and it always goes back to Israeli companys. This is a link to a story that is a Jewish publication. If you notice they are one of the first people to openly finger one of these companys as Israelis

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3135229,00.html

    I suppose someone should call this publication anti semetic or racist or something like that.

    I would like to suggest this.

    Not all Israelis are scammer locksmiths.

    But I will say this Just about all of the scammer locksmiths that use phony addresses around the country and are cheating hardworking consumers Just happen to be Israeli.

    They are Impersonating long time existing locksmith businesses by using their names and or addresses, or using addresses on the same block to confuse.

    I am sorry but they are Israelis, Where is the outcry from the same people that are offended because there is a common denominator pointed out. Why is there so much comment to protect certain seedy elements based on the fact they are from Israel, does it make them immune to any critisism.

    No one is picking on Israelis, it is not racial or antisemetic, But the fact is they are Israeli and true loyal Israelis should work to stop these scammers. They are the ones that are embaressing the good people from Israel.

    What is going on is absolutly wrong. I am offended that people actually stick up for these particular scamming businesses because they are Israeli. If it were nigerian or chinese like robin said I am quite sure there would be no one opposing that view or getting all offended.

    Here is the article again. Read it.

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3135229,00.html

  31. Note, this is an Israeli media source, link to the link for full article.

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3135229,00.html

    Israeli company cons Chicago residents

    Bronx-based Israeli locksmith company facing two lawsuits for alleged consumer fraud, after they manipulated phone listings with false addresses and charged customers with unrealistic high prices

    Ynetnews
    Published: 08.30.05, 11:09 / Israel News

    An Israeli-owned locksmith company is facing two lawsuits from the Chicago Department of Consumer services for alleged consumer fraud, the Chicago Sun Times reports.

    Bronx-based Price Line Locksmith Inc. has been accused of manipulating Chicago’s local phone listings with false addresses, in a bid to obtain customers and create an illusion of a neighborhood business.
    ______________________________

    Some of Dependable Locksmith?s aliases include, Superb Solutions, Locksmith 24 Hour, Inc., USA Total Security, Priceline Locksmith, and S.O.S. Locksmith.

    Two other locksmith contractors fleecing consumers are Basad, Inc. ? which operates under more than 50 names nationwide, such as A-1 Locksmith Service, A-1 24 Hour Locksmith, A-1 Lock & Key Locksmith, and AAA Locksmith 24 Hour ? and Liberty Locksmith. Similar to Dependable Locksmith, they pose as local locksmiths and run full-page yellow pages ads with multiple phone and address listings. The phone numbers appear to be local, but connect to national call centers such as Liberty?s in New York City, while the addresses end up belonging
    to other established businesses in the local area, or are simply non-existent
    __________________________________

    Basad Inc: http://basadinc.com/

    Locksmith at Basad Inc.
    http://www.myvisajobs.com/Green-Card-List/Locksmith/Basad+Inc.-CN/Englewood/CO/All/All.htm

    Hints: Submit your resume to the largest career web site in US.
    1. Visa Type: PERM Submit Year: 2007 Location: Englewood, CO
    Proffered Wage: 16.38/Hour Case Status: Denied Beneficiary Citizenship: Israel
    Details
    2. Visa Type: PERM Submit Year: 2007 Location: Englewood, CO
    Proffered Wage: 16.38/Hour Case Status: Denied Beneficiary Citizenship: Israel
    Details
    3. Visa Type: PERM Submit Year: 2007 Location: Englewood, CO
    Proffered Wage: 16.38/Hour Case Status: Certified Beneficiary Citizenship:
    Israel Details
    4. Visa Type: PERM Submit Year: 2007 Location: Englewood, CO
    Proffered Wage: 16.38/Hour Case Status: Certified Beneficiary Citizenship:
    Israel
    _____________________________

    http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/7_on_your_side&id=5595259

    There are numerous similarities between Dependable and USA A-1 Locksmith. Investigators say many involved with Dependable are from Israel. Part of USA A-1’s Web site is coded in Hebrew.

    “That prompted me to do some more searching. Looking at the domain name, USA A-1 Locksmith, found out the site is hosted out of Israel,” said Matt Sawicki, a Web developer.
    __________________________________________

    I just spoke to a legitimate locksmith who has been in business for more than 25 years. These crooks stole his name and have spammed all the google search pages. When horrible reports are made about that company, HIS legitimate company pays the price. He’s thinking about going out of business.

    “However, some of them are decent, honest, American citizens – and some are evil-doers. The “Israeli” bit, is totally irrelevant to the real issue,”

    Did I claim anywhere that all Israelis are “evil doers”? No I did not nor would I ever claim such a thing. Fact is these thieves are participating in an organized crime ring using illegal aliens as it’s perpetrators. Furthermore, Israel’s best interest is served by the FBI and whoever else is involved in this case contacting them for cooperation. I have a dear Israeli friend in Jerusalem who told me recently a young friend of his was having a problem getting a visa to the US because the US is cracking down on issuing tourist visas for this very reason. It is NOT in Israel’s interest to have it’s citizens participating in these crimes so trying to cover it up does that country no good when they are finally put behind bars. I suggest strongly that there be cooperation between
    law enforcement here and Israel. If they are willing to post in their media that these are Israelis then I ask why ALOA is reluctant to say so themselves.
    One would think that Interpol should be involved as well.

    http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

    http://www.ibls.com/

  32. @steve you misunderstand my point: If there has been a company in you neighborhood, a REAL company with a building and a roof over it and NOT just a google map with a phony address, and it so happens that company has prospered as “Pasadena Locksmith”, and HONEST businessman would recognize the name is ALREADY IN USE and yes, you are correct, it cannot be service marked without great effort because of it being too generic, and as was explained to me years ago by attorney, you can’t service mark a town you don’t own. With that said, with respect to this topic, the criminals who are causing real damage to legitimate locksmiths across our nation are exploiting directory listings by getting them with a third party telco, Verizon is required by FCC regulations to publish them, and all those phony listings end up all over the internet through massive database providers like AXIOM. The point is, these are not legitimate businessmen, they are deliberately using names that have goodwill established in them, and much of my goodwill in Pasadena Locksmith is being destroyed by these unscrupulous, unqualified hacks, regardless of their race or religion. I respect what you say, I understand it, but it doesn’t change that I can prove in a court of law that I have had the name in use for many years before these criminals hijacked it, and whether it could be service marked (not trade marked) is not relevant to the issue. The name should never be allowed to be entered into the directory in the first place if it is already in use. With that said, I am a good man that can’t be kept down, it costs very little to keep it alive and I will essentially be “short” the name while they destroy it, they will eventually be run out of the state with new legislation, and I will pick it up again like any good businessman would. The problem associated with the google maps really starts with these criminals being able to list all the phony addresses with cheap, 50cent VOIP lines at 8 cents a minute, making the mass marketing strategy quite feasible. Do you know how frustrating it is to call the Verizon business office and be told they are required by the FCC to publish these phony listings from a third party telco? They had to create a whole new department to deal with it. It is madness and the only way to stop it sadly, is to require valid business information at the point of entry at ANY telco. NO valid address, no phone number. After a few years like that, the google maps may still be exploited somewhat, but you wouldn’t see the thousands of illegitimate listings come in all at once. Sorry, didn’t mean to rant, but people do actually call the locksmith with the geoname, and these guys are marketing the strategy to the 9nth degree. I have been assured by my attorney that I have exclusive right to my name without the service mark because they cannot service mark it either, but they are criminals and don’t abide by the law anyway. Google may already be considering a department just like Verizon had to create to deal with this madness.

  33. @Keyman

    When you combine passion + vitriol + nationality it has a tendency to sound xenophobic. A number of readers contacted me publicly and privately expressing concern about the turn of the conversation and even asked me to put a stop to it. If it seemed that way to others, then minimally you need to ask whether it was and if not whether it furthers your cause.

    When you combine that with the macho challenges and talk of being buried 20 feet under, it has a tendency to cast the whole industry in a bad light. It becomes hard for us non locksmiths to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

    I understand that the deeds of the “bad guys” have been devastating to legitimate locksmiths. I understand and empathize with the passion and dismay.

    But I would also suggest that as an industry you are not well served by this type of rant.

    Blogs have a funny way of distorting and archiving these comments. I would suggest a more measured public tone all around. Bad is bad and illegal is illegal….that will ultimately come out. But to move the institutional structures to do the right thing takes passion AND time. I support your efforts. Don’t get mixed up on the way as to what your message is.

    Mike

  34. “When you combine that with the macho challenges and talk of being buried 20 feet under, it has a tendency to cast the whole industry in a bad light. It becomes hard for us non locksmiths to tell the good guys from the bad guys.”

    I respectfully disagree. The point here is to expose those who are committing this crime. As I wrote above, locks are sort of a funny thing, they equal your security. Just as I do with any legitimate trade which exists, I respect locksmiths. Where they have it within their power to commit crimes, break ins, copying of your keys, safe-cracking, or just plain old fleecing you with poor work, they do not. It is precisely their job to make me as a consumer SAFE. It is called integrity and due to their integrity, we as consumers can trust them.

    Reading of this crime that is taking down a trade and who the perpetrators are does not make it hard for me to tell the good guys from the bad ones because the more information I have about the bad ones the EASIER it is for me to choose a legitimate locksmith. Furthermore, it brings to me great sorrow that these businesses which are legitimate, many in the family for years, a PROUD trade, are being brought to the point of reeling from this onslaught against them, spending time and effort fighting it or simply giving up and shuttering their doors.

    With the cooperation of law enforcement agencies here and in Israel this has the best chance of being resolved. These “jobs” go up on message boards there with all the contact information and “how tos” and “where to gos” to become involved. This crime must be stopped at it’s source and our own enforcement agencies should not be afraid to expect cooperation due to the fact of massive cooperation between our two countries. Again, it is NOT in Israel’s interest to have their nationals committing crimes here, they know this, and anyone reading here should have the brains to know the same.

    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/Treaties/drugs.pdf

    http://goo.gl/2IM5P

    http://usembassy-israel.org.il/publish/press/justice/archive/1999/march/jd1316.htm

    Need I suggest that those complaining here are certainly aware of this and should be using their noodles to figure this one out on their own.

  35. @harold, I did then, in part, misunderstand your point. I am a search marketer so my perspective is biased towards thinking about targeting keywords in search engines. True, the telco’s should not be allowing another biz to use an already existing legitimate business name in it’s directory. But, here is where my perspective kicks in, if I was running a locksmith company in Pasadena I would optimize the website to rank well in search engines for queries like ‘pasadena locksmith’ and ‘locksmith pasadena’, regardless of whether or not there was a competitor in town operating under that name in any sort of official capacity. It is there that the phrase is in the public realm and is fair game for all.

  36. Mike, This was not my comment

    ““When you combine that with the macho challenges and talk of being buried 20 feet under, it has a tendency to cast the whole industry in a bad light. It becomes hard for us non locksmiths to tell the good guys from the bad guys.”

    I also want to say I didnt take your thread the way it went. How ever I noticed that there were some comments that are taking offense to a factual statement(s).

    I made 1 comment that I feel was totally appropriate . I am quite sure there are plenty of private complaints It wouldnt be the first time Other israelis acted all offended. They just need to not deny that these scammers are networks of Israelis. Nothing personal against Israel or the Jewish religion. This is just a fact that is pointed out. IT is one little fact in the whole scheme of these scammers. I dont blog to be politically correct. I try to say things as openly as possible.

    There are so many things about these scammers but one thing remains constant they all happen to be Israeli.

    I have spoken to Israely friends of mine who have told me about protecting the name of the homeland, and this is why People are offended. They also agree that these certain Israelis should be stopped because they are making Israelis look bad.

    I dont buy into the argument that Identifying these people as Israeli as being wrong, xeniphobic, racial, or what ever else I have to say as my freedom of speach affords. It is not hate speech either.

    I made my point on this issue and I think thats all I have to say. I have to publicly say I am offended that there are those who would rather sweep facts under the rug based on nationality.

    I know this is not what you like to see on your blog, but who exactly started this conversation. It was not robin or myself read back and see who brought this to your blog.

    By the way Before I even came here I recieved email from you asking for help or something. I am still waiting on your call. After the fact of most of these scammers are Israeli there is just so much more to talk about how these scammers do what they do.

    Thats All I have to say. I feel I have made my point and thats all I will say. If you are truly interested in some of the ways of these companys you are welcome to call me.

  37. @Mike

    I made the statement ““When you combine that with the macho challenges and talk of being buried 20 feet under, it has a tendency to cast the whole industry in a bad light. It becomes hard for us non locksmiths to tell the good guys from the bad guys.” knowing full well you did not make it. The part about the 20 feet under that I am quoting was made in the Google forums and I quoted in another entry.

    You obviously misunderstood me and my intent and the intent of the folks that have been reading this blog. THESE FOLKS ARE YOUR FRIENDS and yet when we suggest strategies to improve the marketing of your message or ways to better communicate with the crowd here, we are told that our opinions (not the facts) are wrong.

    No one is denying facts.

    I am talking about Public Relations here for an industry, not about any locksmith.

    Your industry has a problem, a big serious problem.

    As an industry outsider, reading and listening to the way that you (not you personally but the total of posters) in the industry communicate about the problem make its hard to empathize. This is a situation where it should be easy for an outsider to empathize….you folks have taken the long end of a short stick….we all see that and support your efforts to clean up your industry.

    I am suggesting in my above response that you would find many more sympathizers and many more fervant supporters if you modulated your message. I did NOT say you are xenophobic I said YOU SOUND xenophobic.

    At this point, the problem of the bad locksmiths is clear. Now the problem is to get other institutions both civil and business to put in place policies and procedures which stop the bad guys right?

    I am an outsider to your industry, I am a marketer, I am your friend…. as all of the above I am saying to you guys & gals in the locksmith industry: you make it very hard to be on your side EVEN WHEN WE WANT TO!

    There are obviously a million things that separate us and prevent us from understanding each other. That is unfortunate. But those are the types communication barriers that need to be overcome for you (as an industry) to solve these very disturbing problems that have been thrust upon you.

    Mike

  38. Do you see this?

    The United States has been ravaged for far too long by foreign criminals originating in partial or complete sanctuaries abroad and using their beyond-the-border advantages to carry out terrorism, drug trafficking, and other violent crimes while they also rob American pockets by vast, complex economic crimes.

    ECONOMIC crimes

    In 1996, the FBI had in place in our Legal Attache Offices 70 senior Special Agents, all possessing specialized anti-crime skills, and 54 support personnel in 23 nations around the world. They work closely with authorities of those countries to build cop-to-cop bridges that help all law-abiding societies to develop cooperative efforts to better protect their people and our people.

    * These offices will be opened during Fiscal Year 2000. (amongst many)

    Tel Aviv, Israel

    I suppose this is xenophobic?

    The cooperation is there, USE IT.

  39. I just want this problem to go away. Ive spent 6 years fighting it. Just trying to inform people how this operation works is a task all in itself.

    People picture a small business with a couple of employees running around ripping off consumers. That is so far from the truth. The truth is they are large multi million dollar operations that are fine tuned to decieve the consumer. There are obvious connections that they all have, for instance how do they all get 10s of thousands of phone#s with phony addresses attached and listed everywhere.

    How are they inserting their 1 800 #s into peoples google ads.

    NOw we have the measles. will it ever end.

    Everybody seems to have their own angle to things., but what ever happened to just shutting this kind of crime down.

    ITs just not happening and there probably is a good reason why.

    I do know this when you run down the scammers, all roads lead to nigerians, oops excuse me I meant Israelis. Why is that? Is this a wrong question to ask? I wish you luck on your investigations of what is going on in the realm of google and how these guys are manipulating google for the purpose of being deceiptful bussiness operations. You might want to eat a energy bar because the rabbit hole is very deep and constantly changing. The only constant is that the players are Israeli.
    Why?

  40. This is what has occurred in California recently. For all those reading here who just can’t come to the point of wanting to help legitimate locksmiths because “you make it very hard to be on your side EVEN WHEN WE WANT TO!” Seems the CA state legislature didn’t find it hard to be on their side because these scammers are BREAKING THE LAW. Herein is the report: (NOTE: only 2% of the locksmiths listed in the Yellow Pages etc are legitimate! Video is included in the link) Oh, and amazingly, ABC News who helped bring this to the forefront both to aid legitimate locksmiths and consumers resulting in this legislation had no problem informing the public who these scammers are. Here is the ABC storyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYK7-3AJRZM

    and below is the bill

    In part:

    This summer, the state legislature passed AB 2592 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma with the support of the California Locksmith Association.

    “The consumer in the new law will have the ability for restitution upon prosecution. They can actually get their money back from the individual that did the wrong against them,” said John Brueggeman, President of the California Locksmith Association.

    The bill increases the fine for unlicensed locksmith activity tenfold to $10,000.

    “This is a public safety issue, it is also a huge underground economy issue and it’s also helping the legitimate small businesses,” said Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D) San Francisco.

    7 On Your Side researchers last year found only two percent of the 2,300 locksmiths listed in http://www.yellowpages.com had legitimate licenses.

    Our investigation also found that at least 75 percent of those locksmiths don’t have permits to collect taxes. Those uncollected taxes are believed to be costing the state untold millions every year.

    But Ma says this is primarily a safety issue.

    “Nobody knows who these people are and what they’re doing with copies of your keys to your home and car. I believe if the governor signs a bill, people will feel more secure about calling a locksmith,” said Ma.
    http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/7_on_your_side&id=6421640

    Here is the act http://www.bsis.ca.gov/forms_pubs/locksmith_fact.shtml

    NOTE: Included in the act:

    Locksmith Employee

    To be eligible to apply for registration as a locksmith employee, you must meet the following requirements:

    * Undergo a criminal history background check through the DOJ and the FBI; and
    * Submit your completed application, a $20 registration fee and a Locksmith Employee Live Scan form signed by the Live Scan Operator. A $32 DOJ fingerprint processing fee and a $19 FBI fingerprint processing fee must be paid at the Lives Scan site. Send your application package to the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, P.O. Box 989002, West Sacramento, CA 95798-9002

    Revision to the act Jan. 2009
    http://www.bsis.ca.gov/industries_regulated/locksmith_act_revise.shtml

    # Formerly, advertisements for a locksmith company were required to contain the address of the locksmith. The new law now requires the advertisement to contain additional information. An advertisement must contain the company’s business name, business address or business telephone number and license number as they appear in the Bureau’s records.
    # The fine for unlicensed activity is raised from $1,000 or imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, to a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year.

  41. It is too bad that a honest locksmith has to go be a spammer to get any business. Google does not want to fix this problem because the few companies that spam the hell out of google local then take the money they make and spend it on adwords click ads. All the spammer companies spend a fortune on click ads and they are some of the companies that pay the most money to google per year. Why would google ever want to stop that? Who cares about the small business they probably would not be spending money on click ads if there ad appeared for free but these other spammers will take the money they make from google local in one city and fund another city.

  42. It’s not just locksmiths. Many other businesses in NYC use fake addresses and multiply locations to get more coverage. Whose fault is it? It’s very easy to confirm a fake listing on Google maps. You just need a phone number.

    Google is making a big mistake. I’ve seen many companies using different keywords and fake addresses to get lots of coverage. It’s unfair. If those businesses lie about location or their services they can not be trusted-period! Google verification system (including pin via phone) is not working. Very often phone numbers are forwarded and not associated with a listed location. For example many outside businesses use phone call forwarding to get more coverage. I know at least 10 business owners who verified their Google listings and use fake addresses, but Google doesn’t get it!

    The easiest way (in my opinion) to prevent fake or inaccurate business listings would be a simple Tax Id check. Only one listing per each Tax ID number allowed. Businesses shall use their legal name (including Inc, LLC or CO.) to advertise or sell their services. Tax Id number should match listing name-title (Legal Company Name ONLY allowed) and location should be verified. No keywords or other names shall be allowed.

    The easiest way to verify location would be a current phone number check (landline allowed only-no cell phones), with local phone company.
    In addition a verification card with the security pin shall be sent to the advertiser. It takes some effort, but it would eliminate scammers, unscrupulous business owners and bad webmasters. In addition it would make more customers safe and happy.

  43. That’s a little too tight there Pete, IMO. Having to stick to “official name” including things like Inc, LLC and Co. is bad. Google is just too heavily reliant on keywords. And searchers respond to the keywords they used in a search and not to Random Name, LLC.

    It’s not much different than adding AAA to get a top listing in print yellow pages. Print pages are an alphabetical ranking medium, search engines are a keyword ranking medium.

    One listing per Tax ID wont work either as some businesses legitimately have multiple locations.

    In the long run those that over do the keywording in their name will likely loose out as Google improves its system. Those that do it on a slight enough level should be ok. The Maps system is still relatively new and its a wild west, much like organic results were years ago, but it will improve and businesses will respond to any changes

    In organic search we (search marketers) all scramble to adapt to significant algorithm changes. Or, for those of us on the ball, we see these changes coming and start moving in that direction before they come into effect. A strategy towards quality is the key to long term success in the search engines, those that too aggressively go for the quick and dirty route will, for the most part, loose out in the end.

    That said, Maps at this stage of the game is still a little too easy to game and those that stick to quality and honesty are taking a hit. So forums like this help shed spotlights on the bad stuff and help urge Google to get cracking on improving things. I do trust that they can and will make Maps a quality resource.

  44. Steve,
    It’s ok if you can prove that your business is in fact located in several locations. I have nothing against businesses listing their real-legitimate locations, even more than one, as long as they exist. I’m against smart a..es using fake addresses and keywords to get top positions on Google Maps. They shouldn’t be there-period. They are cheaters and spammers.
    I personally think that Google should find a better way to verify those businesses (name and real address), and Tax Id check would be an answer. I’m positive it would work. It would at least prevent those scammers from using fake names. There are many ways to check addresses as well. I just hope that smart people in Google will find a way to stop that abuse.
    To be honest I don’t always blame business owners, most of those fake business profiles were created by unscrupulous and money hungry so-called webmasters. The business owners should know though, that use of false business names or locations is against state laws and can be punishable.

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