The Sound of Trouble Knocking – A Call from Google Places India

When Google wants to verify information about a business and when unable to verify it in a fully automated way, they have someone call that business. The calls can result in suspensions and removals from the index (“We do not support this location”).

The call may be precipitated by a change you made to the listing that could not be automatically verified, it could be precipitated by someone marking you as closed, Google could just be looking for service area businesses that has not properly hidden their address or businesses using fake locations and call forwarding.

Regardless the someone making the call for Google is from India and the calls are always very weird. The Indians don’t always understand what is said and for sure, don’t understand the pace of our lives. The calls are somewhat jarring and out of context, the caller only identifies themselves as from Google if asked directly and they are inevitably viewed with suspicion by the local business.

In this particular case, Precision Door Memphis, is a totally legit business with a long time track record at a location where they accept client visits. Google called from 650-253-2000 and shows up as GOOGLE INC in the caller id but the receptionist did not have that information available to her at the time of the call.

Unfortunately for the business, Google sounded much too much like the daily spam local SEO marketing calls and the receptionist hung up on the first caller. The listing disappeared that night and showed the now infamous “We do not support this location” message. To Google’s credit they called back again to be sure and again, sounding like spammers, the receptionist hung up on them.

Here are the actual recordings of the calls.

The first call:

And four days later another call:

Your thoughts? Have you gotten these calls? How did your organization respond? What should Google do differently when human verifying the calls?

A note of caution. On each recording the initial sound (shown as two, wide vertical segments) of the ringing is very loud and the subsequent conversations are quite soft. So block your ears for the beginning and crank it up after that section to hear the details

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
The Sound of Trouble Knocking - A Call from Google Places India by

73 thoughts on “The Sound of Trouble Knocking – A Call from Google Places India”

  1. One sad fact in all of this is: Google just made it easier for unethical SEO companies to make their cold-calls sound just like Google’s.

    Any business owner who got burned by this whole process will have an even harder time distinguishing legit calls from Google from scam calls.

    Shady SEOs are just clever enough to piggyback off of Google’s clumsiness and the fear that clumsiness has created.

  2. Mike –

    Thanks for posting. We and our clients have had these and they do sound eerily similar. If it’s a very small shop where folks know what’s going on, the person answering the phone can piece it together. If not, well, what happened here is more likely than not.

    But – hey – at least the cleaner works perfectly and competitors can’t make changes to your owner-verified locations!

  3. First time I received a call I had multiple listings and was trying to fix it. I was so happy to get the call and I thought everything would be fixed…wrong! More recently, I received a call asking for verification of information, I think because I use a Google Voice number as the principal number for the biz (which took a long time to get Google to be happy with),and this time no problems and I maintained my no.1 position in my categories. My advice is to tell staff to treat the calls with the Google caller id as seriously as a call from the IRS.

  4. We get these calls all the time. Usually they say they are a “Google Partner” to get past the receptionist. So now, I am forced to take at least 10 spam calls a day, thinking it REALLY could be Goggle. One issue I think of, is, what if the office had to leave early, the lines are all lit and go to the backup line, went to voice mail, went to court for the day, etc, and/or the calls have to be forwarded to the answering service. How are they – answering service – gonna know what location is being verified? There is no way a call center could tell. They would just say: “We are the call center”, and kablam, your gone. So many variables. Really, none of these methods work. Good guys get wiped out along with the bad. All very arbitrary and variable. Can anyone think of a better way?

  5. Google doesn’t really care about supporting free services. And frankly they have proven that they don’t really care to help small businesses. What needs to happen is folks need to start an effort to level the playing field in search by using Bing (ugh) or Yahoo. The other players don’t use local data for their results.

    Make a dent in Google’s bottom line and they will pay attention.

  6. I stumbled upon this thread through a Google search.


    Both the caller and the receptionist should have really listened to what the other was saying.
    I understand the receptionists point of view, get rid of calls that seem a waste of time.
    As many have said here, The Google “representative” should have had more training and from the start made clear the gravity of the following information requested.
    I find that there really aren’t conversations any more.
    It’s just two or more people trying to be heard without listening to what’s being said.

    Take turns.

    I talk, you listen then respond. You talk, I listen then respond.

    I wouldn’t have a receptionists job. Nor would anyone hire me for one.


    I really enjoyed this thread.

    P.S. Anyone here notice how the word published is spelled in the footer at the time of this comment? (Yeah, I’m the guy who stays and watches the credits at the end of the movie. Try it, sometimes there’s really interesting stuff in there)

  7. We have seen sites dropped because of this as well, but I would rather at least have the opportunity to call someone at Google or email for support in regards to Maps and business listings than not.

  8. First let me preface what I have to say with this: I was a corporate network engineer in NYC for about 5 years. I studied hacking techniques including social hacking which includes people cold calling to gather bits and pieces about a network, about who works in the business, about the address etc. At certain points this even leads to a uniformed “contractor” with a name tag showing up and getting past security to gain physical access to corporate networked computers. I myself have made bets with my fellow network administrators as to who could cold call our company department heads to trick them into giving us information and my proudest accomplishment was getting the secretary to the CEO to provide me with the password to his account.

    That said, I now am an SEO and I get calls like this all day long, people phishing for “innocent” information telling me they are so and so and this and that – and vendors – hundreds of vendors a month – all *sorts* of people who don’t properly identify themselves and I do the exact same thing. No thank you. And hang up.

    Google needs to have their call center personnel call all of their own department heads and find out. I can virtually guarantee that by their own standards they will see that they have to delist themselves from Google.

  9. I received a call about two months ago while driving on a late Sunday evening around 8 pm. I could not believe someone from Google would be calling me on a Sunday evening. A couple of questions later, I insisted they call me during the day, and/or leave a name or phone# where I could contact them. The caller resisted and when I expressed some exasperation, the caller called me a rude person and hung up.

    I could not believe this was anything but spam or competition trying to throw curve balls. But surprisingly, we started experiencing problems with our Google Local listings. One of our sites had “closed for business”, and some of our phone #s were altered. In a word, it’s been a nightmare that we have yet to come to terms with.

    We are a small business and have been a long-term Google Adwords customer spending over $100k per year. I am appalled with all the confusion surrounding Google Places, and now Google+ Local. What’s frustrating is that there is no contact at Google for clarifications with Google+ Local.

  10. My site was in the top 5 of Google for variations of “real estate photographers in Seattle”. I received one of these strange calls – even stranger than either of these recordings. In fact, I even told the girl “you’re not from Google”. She giggled and insisted she was. But it was so unprofessional and weird that I didn’t believe her and hung up.

    A couple days later my site moved to the 2nd page of Google’s results.

  11. @Jesse. If it was Google, and they blasted you, it would have been a complete removal from Places and perhaps leaving you in Maps only. I doubt it was them. Probably an update.

  12. Found your post when I went searching for “google plus solicitation call,” which is what I just received. The call came from “Tillamook, OR” and was a recorded voice wanting me to to “Press 1 to complete your Google Plus listing.”
    Unfortunately, another call came in just then, so I dropped the call and didn’t get to explore whether it was legitimately from Google or not.
    I tried calling the number, to see and got a recording stating “A (unintelligible; sounded like “Nictel”) wireless network was shut down in June 30, 2013, and this telephone number was not transferred to another network prior to the (unintelligible, same as above) shutdown.” Then it disconnected. All very curious.

    Regarding your original post: a) lot of commenters got it right: Google needs to clearly identify themselves and the nature of the call right up front. That’s just standard politeness. b) commenters who thought the receptionist was too curt obviously haven’t had to field these calls on a daily basis.

  13. @Matt
    That was not Google.
    1)Google never uses a recorded voice
    2)The call always comes from their headquarter number (650) 253-0000
    3)They will definitely say that they are with Google if asked and often will introduce themselves as such.

  14. I get recorded calls from Google almost every day. Today it came from a Detroit number 313-355-5247.

  15. @Charles

    All “google calls” that are actually from Google come from the same number as their HQ phone number: 653-253-0000.

    If it comes from a different number it isn’t from Google but from some company that is attempting to deceive you.

  16. My business has been hijacked, and this is suspicious to me when I get a call from Google maps AND THE CALLER ID IS FROM MY OWN BUSINESS, AND THEY HAVE MY VOICE AND A KEY PROMPT ON A RECORDING> Since my business and phone have been hijacked I can’t believe this is legit. Does anyon e know how to contact google maps directly?

  17. For Google being a technology company, you would think it obvious to require electronic login to confirm your details, not some phone call. Something people opt-in for.

    In the telephone carrier world, there’s a critical challenge to the customer. The -real- caller info absolutely must exist on the line in order for the call to route. Caller ID info is separate info. When calling Comcast, AT&T, etc. they often claim an inability to trace a call based on the real routing info. They -have- the ability to do so. Challenge this with them and with your political representatives or the problems will NEVER die out.

  18. I keep getting calls that google listing needs to be verified. Is it from google, not from google? They keep calling from different caller ids. This should be stopped. I have my iphone set on blocking calls for over 40 numbers now.

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