Google Maps suffers huge infusion of Remote Call Forwarding Mapspam

rcf mapspam
Google has been working hard recently at limiting the ability of bulk uploaders to spam the Maps Index. Their efforts have significantly cut the frequency of reports of large scale abuse.

However it appears that the new Yellow Pages are out and more than fingers walked on over to Google. Massive amounts of Remote Call Forwarding numbers and associated businesses have made their way into the Maps index. If the counts at the bottom of Google Maps are to be trusted at all, the numbers are well into the tens of thousands and could be over a hundred thousand entries. Regardless it is a lot of spam.

Cathy Rulloda describes the process thusly: “While the ultimate blame lies with the businesses who willingly providing false information to deceive consumers about their actual locations, the cloaking behind RCF numbers – which are then picked up by data providers like the Yellow Pages publishers, assigned zip codes (if no street addressees are provided), and then treated as trusted local businesses by Google – makes their entre’ into Maps easy.”

These records initially are listed in Google without any street address and a round pin. They are much more frequently shown in rural environments where there is less competition and fewer highly authoritative listings. 
Florist Concierge by Wire – 20,175 listings
Flowers By Grower  – 2,325 listings
Florist Telesales Directory –  5,502 listings
Flower Shops Directory- 3919 listings

This one is impressive 
Florist Directory – 102,855 listings

This count likely has a large number of dupes and it may not be totally meaningful but as far as the eye could see they were all obviously the same company listed in the index. 

Initially this sort of spam has the most impact in rural searches as the listings, without address do not have high authority and do not rank well in competitive areas. For example, this rural search turned up 7 of 10 of these listings in the Ten Pack. If these listings are allowed to be claimed via phone verification, it is conceivable, that like the locksmith spam, it could impact more urban and competitive searches.

morrow-ga

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9 thoughts on “Google Maps suffers huge infusion of Remote Call Forwarding Mapspam”

  1. Mike –

    Thanks for the coverage on this story. To further illustrate how the spammer is using IYPs to enter G Maps, look at a query for the phone number for the first Florist Directory listing, ‘Cornelius Florist Directory’. The sole result is yellowpages.com.

    Perhaps G Maps puts an emphasis on ‘freshness’, so these new bogus listings get pushed out live quickly. (AFAICT the spammer listings have yet to appear in either Yahoo Local/Maps or Live’s Local listings.) But this particular case of spam would be difficult to detect via a filter since every listing has a unique local or toll-free phone number.

    In the locksmith thread, one of the commenters suggested the YPs and IYPs be contacted about this issue. Believe me, it’s been tried in the floral industry – by both state and national associations – for more than a decade (in the case of print directories).

    I’m only aware of a few cases where it’s been successful, and it’s usually because a state law has teeth and financially penalizes the YPs for publishing the deceptive listings. Most states do not have such penalties and the YP publishers have far better lobbyists than the local florists.

    Cathy

  2. The Yellowpages.com listing also showed another “DBA” that I had not searched on and it also showed an interesting mix of 800 & Local numbers:

    Cornelius Florist Concierge
    Cornelius, NC 28031
    (704) 765-4234

    Cornelius Florist Directory
    Cornelius, NC 28031
    (888) 533-0980

    Cornelius Florist Telesales Directory
    Cornelius, NC 28031
    (888) 860-6434

    Cornelius Flower Shops
    Cornelius, NC 28031
    (704) 314-4425

    Cornelius Flower Shops Directory
    Cornelius, NC 28031
    (888) 877-3203

    Cornelius Flowers by Grower
    Cornelius, NC 28031
    (888) 291-6282

    Mike

  3. Right. And all those other listings have been populated into G Maps, too.

    Note that the sole citation for each is yellowpages.com.

  4. Thanks to you and Cathy for bringing additional attention to this issue – I did report the original info I found per your reply in the Google Group. Hopefully the spam team will look into this further.

  5. Steve

    Thanks for stopping by.

    As of yet, Google has not done anything about this instance. If I were you, I would repost into the Google Maps Spam thread.

    Mike

  6. Not every RCF # that shows up on google is from an intentional spammer. In fact , some businesses had no foresight that IYP would populate google with all those numbers.

    Many companies use advertiser provided RCF for call tracking purposes. AT&T , yellow book , yp etc; often provide call tracking on each ad in each separate yellow page book , so the business can see which ads are generating phone calls. Some call tracking #’s also record the call so business owners can verify the results of that call as well as making sure calls are answered properly by employees.

    We are such a business. I have phone #’s all over the state. We do service the entire state (which google does a poor job of conveying to the public) but these extra listings only confuses a customer that finds one of those numbers. I think we may get an extra call here and there because of it , but we lose business and/or credibility more often when a customer sees all these different towns with no street address. They think its a franchise or something unscrupulous , or they want to come visit …has created a lot of strange phone calls for us.

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