Google Now Calling to Confirm Google Places Community Edits & Verification Issues

Over the past few months a number of clients and readers have emailed me and asked if Google ever called to check on listings. Apparently callers (often from India) would ask the business for information like street address. The callers when queried would claim to be from Google but would refuse to provide call back information to the businesses.  The calls struck an odd note with the businesses and when asked I advised them that historically Google had never made such calls and that the calls were likely from scammers.

In May, in an effort to be clean up business listing quality, Google  announced that community edits would require verification before they would be integrated into the listing results. Apparently these “consumer calls” looking for location information are in fact from Google and part of this program. Google has confirmed that as part of that additional level of verification, they have been calling businesses to find out business name and address. Google noted the following to me:

In some cases, to verify business information, we’ll make phone calls to find out the business name and address. However, we will never make an unsolicited call asking you to provide specific account information, passwords or other sensitive information over the phone.

If asked, the person will identify themselves as calling with Google Maps.

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Google Now Calling to Confirm Google Places Community Edits & Verification Issues by

63 thoughts on “Google Now Calling to Confirm Google Places Community Edits & Verification Issues”

  1. hmmm…if these are for community edits why are people reporting these calls for claimed listings? As commented on David Mihms latest post referencing your article

    I actually have gotten some calls in the past that start off automated saying wait on the line for some type of Google marketing survey (or something like that). I always hung up on them so no idea if they were real. Now you got me wondering if I should have answered them.

    1. Those automated ones are most definitely companies trying to sell you something. These are, at least for now, always human initiated.

  2. I received a call about 6 weeks ago from someone from Google who wanted to make sure that I was aware that I could use the area of service option if I wanted on my local business listing.

    I took advantage of the opportunity to ask some questions about the difference between the settings in terms of how likely it would be that my rankings would continue if I made the change, and had a nice conversation with the Google Maps representative.

    I was asked if my business name and address information was correct, but I hadn’t personally made any edits to my listing recently, and show up fine in Google Maps listings.

  3. This might be the best way to actually get to talk to a real live representative from Google Maps – just “community edit” your listing and wait for a call!

    In all seriousness, it’s interesting to see Google take a page out of the YellowPages.com book for verifying information this way. I wonder if the Google reps takes the opportunity during the calls to mention AdWords or Tags?

  4. Gosh, thank you so much for reporting on this, Mike. I am positive I would have told a client that this was a scam, if it came up. I just read David’s post, too, and see that he did tell a client exactly this.

    The manner in which this is being done is bound to confuse. You just don’t know who this person who can’t give you their ID or number is, calling you. I have a suggested solution that would increase the trustworthiness of the program, somewhat:

    As this is happening with verified listings, Google has the email addresses of the business owners they want to call. They could start the process by sending an email, perhaps 24 hours in advance, saying that a Google representative will be calling the business within the given time frame. Then, when the call came in, the business owner would be expecting it, and at least the two forms of communication would cross-reference and validate one another.

    Granted, my suggestion might allow some spammers to somehow scramble to answer the call, in the case of spam businesses, but perhaps not. I’m not sure if Google’s reps are depending upon the element of surprise to see if the caught-off-guard recipient answers the telephone, “Bob’s Doughnut Shop,” or not. Actually, I really am wondering how the reps ARE determining legitimacy.

    At any rate, it feels to me that something should be done to make this process feel more valid and less phishy.

    Again, thanks for reporting.

  5. I wonder where they’re going with this. If you answer the phone the wrong way, or give incorrect details on your business, they’ll penalize you in the rankings?

    I can’t imagine they’d do anything so drastic, but like Miriam asks, how do you determine legitimacy?

    This is a pretty weird and not so Google-y thing for Google to be doing

  6. @ Jim

    As Mike mentioned above, those calls are from India… unfortunately most of the calls are made by some indian employees that most of them have no idea what are they asking for nor trying to accomplish, all the more so supplying some other info, such as other paid features etc.

    I wish Google can take Maps more seriously & start organizing the 7packs by removing spammers from top positions & from Maps. I honstly don’t think this verification process can be useful nor helpful for this purpose as it is progressing right now.

  7. @Bill

    There seem to be several types of calls…one, an upfront “are you aware of Tags, service area etc” and another, surreptitious, “what is your real business name or are you located at”… its the latter that seem to get folks worried.

    @Jim
    Yea who would of thunk a community edit could actually get you a warm body 🙂

    @Miriam

    That was exactly what I did. I counseled the folks that asked me that it was likely some sort of scam… There are way too many companies like Kelly mentioned that are pretending to be Google. And then Google calls but acts sort of like the mystery shopper only its a mystery shopper that clearly raises the hair on the neck of the person answering….Funny that Google isn’t doing a very good job of posing as the mystery shoppers and gets suspected of being one of those spammers…

    No, it just doesn’t have the right ring to it for Google to be doing it this way….

    On another note – from the spammers I have communicated with, they seem to feel that they can tell when its a Google call and feed Google the wrong info anyways.

    @Abby
    The methodology certainly doesn’t add credibility to an act that should be intrinsically credible, does it?

  8. Raise your hand if you’re now thinking “I probably hung up on Google.” Ugh.

    The volume of off-shore calls we’ve been hit with this summer has been tremendous – many times a day some days. With more than 200,000 phone numbers now on the Federal Do-Not-Call list, it’s been open telemarketer season on SMBs (which don’t qualify for that list.)

    Mike – thanks for the alert! Getting the word out is important. I posted one for florists and hope other heavily spammed categories (locksmiths, movers, computer repair, etc…) have trade associations that pick up this story.

  9. Mike – was there any more to the email than that? Can we have some context – was this in response to a specific question of yours to Google?

    I’m worried specifically about a client of mine who uses an answering service – I’m thinking it’s a good idea to make sure they’re briefed, and have all the proper contact information they need if a verification call comes in. As of now, I don’t think they have the correct address, this could be a problem.

  10. They can call me. I’m editing away on old duplicate listings, businesses that are closed, etc. I see very few changes. Remarkably few.

    Additionally, you would think they might have learned something from the complaints about calls to confirm claimed listings. Lots of phone numbers get routed into a central source or someone who answers the phone and may not direct the call to a correct person.

    There should be a better way to do this.

  11. @Menachem

    The context was that I had several clients and readers ask if Google was in fact calling. They had their doubts but thought it could be them.

    I sent that question with some specific details off to Google and they responded. I did not publish the full email, only the part that I felt was necessary to substantiate the situation.

  12. I know Google reads this blog. I hope they read this comment. Edits normally don’t create a response. In my experience you can edit to your heart’s delight and nothing happens. I’ve edited out businesses that have been closed for years. Nothing happens. One of those records has a comment from someone who says they went to the location and it was demolished. The Google street view shows a piece of ground with nothing on it.

    Still the business record remains. Its been there for years despite edits a street view with no building on the site, and a comment in the record stating there is nothing there.

    Exactly what does google need to effect edits?????

    I recently made edits on 5 dups for one of our businesses. I’ve been editing these sites for years. Nothing happens.

    Now Google is possibly making calls on some edits and utilizing a phone introduction that might generate immediate hang ups by the person answering the phone.

    In an environment of virtually no responsiveness, certainly Google can do better.

  13. In my PPC campaigns I use call recording. We listened to one call that came from Google. They did not state they were from Google, but just asked if they had the correct address and phone number then said thanks and hung up.

  14. I received a call as well. I “community edited” a listing I found of mine. About a week later, a woman called, asked my secretary if the name, and phone number was accurate for that physical location. I said yes.

    Another secretary of mine received a call from “Google”, and a man wanted to verify an 888 number. My secretary thought it was a sales call ( we get 10 plus sales calls a day), and hung up on him. Weeks later, several of my stores are still in “review” and not live.

  15. Because I put a PO Box on my Places account, they removed it and called me twice. I didn’t appreciate the way they did it. I got one call, and this mystery woman asked “What is your listed business address?” w/o identifying herself, and with a little attitude. So I said, “well, who are you please?” Again, with an attitude, said she was from Google Places, verifying my address. I told her I deliberately put my PO Box because I didn’t want clients knowing my personal address. They removed me the next day, I fixed it, and a month later they called again, not telling me who they were, but once I verified my home address, which I now reluctantly was forced to put on Places, they re-instituted me.
    Now, since then, they somehow put 2 of my competitors reviews in addition to mine on there from Citisearch, and refuse to remove them.
    Google Places is stupid. It’s causing more problems them helping.

  16. @Magster

    The reviews are positive so I would loose little sleep over them. In fact I would not, as you have done, bother to point them out to readers.

    It appears that you do not have a listing at CitySearch and Google is assigning what it thinks are reviews for you into your listing due to the similarity of names.

    Adding your business to Localeze and InfoUSA would eventually add your business to CitySearch which might in the end allow Google to recognize that they have the wrong listing associated with yours.

    In the meantime, rejoice that the mistake adds positive reviews to your business which are hard to get and do help ranking.

  17. It is darn near impossible to get Google on the phone when you want THEM, and now they are calling YOU? That doesn’t seem right. They would be better served to dedicate some resources to customer service. My company spends thousands a month on Adwords, but I can’t even get a representative to answer questions when something goes wrong. If you ask me, Google is getting too big for their britches these days.

  18. I’ve received calls on 2 occasions. When I tried to express my apprehension about the validity of the call to the 1st caller, he became very snooty & rude, so I hung up on him. Just received another. He asked if my address info was correct, then said he needed to verify it again through a recording, which he was required to talk over. Then I was supposed to verify the same information again. If this is from Google, you’d think such a technology oriented company could make the process much simpler – like maybe their people could just ask, compare the information they have to what’s given over the phone and type in whatever changes need to be made and be done with it. Their current procedure only adds to the feeling that it’s a scam.

  19. I am certain that as long as the calls come in as restricted, the person answering identifies his or herself as Google, is unable or unwilling to be in an exchange of words that can somehow differentiate them from the spammers, has no redeeming authorization and all control with no oversight IE.:
    “this may be a recorded call for quality purposes”, no clear contact number to append or modify a secretarial f aux pa, then you can rest assured that the gift that isGoogle is about to be regulated just as sure as I speak to my congressman next as I am unable to put them on my “DO NOT CALL LIST”as I only speak to the big G’ with my monthly payments and for now, that’s as good as it gets in a world of ph
    that burns on either end, Mishbucha.

  20. the least they could’ve done was use english speaking people that didn’t sound like scammers. almost as stupid as using nigerians to make the phone calls.

  21. I too just received a call from an automated recording wanting to know if I wanted to be included in the Google Local Directory. I hung up in thinking that maybe it was a scam. How is one to know?

  22. I will received a call from google today and verfied my address just like they asked and now places listing has vanished. It still shows as being active in my places admin though.

  23. I’ve answered one time and they say they are from Google places and if you don’t answer you will not be listed. I answered and they wanted to charge me $180 to update me. Or I could watch a 45 minute you-tube about how to update and it wouldn’t take me more than 3 hours to do it. I’m pretty sure this is a scam. What do you think?

  24. In the last week my reviews have been incorrect and now my listing is not showing at all. Do a search I my company doesn’t even show!!!! Please anyone know how I can get someone to contact me.

  25. I received a phone call from Google Maps to verify my business information. Two hours later my site was removed from the maps.

    I have a legitimate business and hold a 30/30 rating with great reviews from my customers. This is my only source of advertising and I may be forced to close down now as there aren’t enough funds or time to generate any other type of advertising.

    Why would Google do this. I can’t reach them by phone or online.

  26. I am in the heart of a residential area and have been for years even with my two moves. I didn’t have the hide address selected and checked the box that said customers can come here. I do provide service away from home being an electrical service business, but they can still come here for quotes, materials, or a visit.

  27. I went to the dashboard. It keeps defaulting to this:

    Service Areas and Location Settings

    Does your business provide services, such as delivery or home repair, to locations in a certain area?
    No, all customers come to the business location
    Yes, this business serves customers at their locations

    It doesn’t allow me to change it to Yes even though I check the box. I also can’t find “hide address” option.

  28. @Mike

    Google, in their big data way, creates policies that work for large numbers of listings but not all. It is not a personal thing rather their attempt to make improvements in the overall index. (I am NOT defending it… just explaining it). You were by no means alone and folks continue to get bitten by this rule.

    It appears that despite your willingness to accept customers at the location Google has decided that you should have hidden your address.

    Your ONLY choice at this point is to edit the listing and then contact support in an effort to be re-included in the listings.

  29. You won’t be able to set the Hide Address pin unless you are able to select Yes on the service area option.

    If it is not possible to do so then your only choice is to contact support.

  30. Thanks Mike but I’ve already tried to contact them with zero results.

    It would certainly have been decent of Google if they would have helped me through this issue rather than taking away my stellar reviews and opportunity to make a living in this struggling economy.

    My business insurance is due in 3 weeks and I won’t be able to stay open now.

  31. @Mike
    It often takes 10-12 days to hear back from them IF you used the Google for Business Help Fix a Problem troubleshooter. If you used Report a Problem you will never hear back.

    Sorry to hear about your closing.

  32. Mike,

    I continued the battle through help forums and emails for 2 weeks. I was put back on but with only 2 reviews instead of the 10 that I had and my 30/30 rating.

    Google seems to be more computer driven than people driven. I did finally receive emails from Google help.

    One tech told me that there is a glitch in the dashboard that won’t allow changes in “service people at their location” option, the one that must have got me removed. He said I should keep trying to check the correct box but it did no good.

    My suggestion is “Don’t mess with your Google maps unless it is broken. You might get dropped or removed from the maps.”

    I claimed my site with a new Gmail account rather than my regular email and it seems to have worked. I got dropped again, was issued a PIN number that was mailed, and got back on again. Now I will have to find the customers that left good reviews to repost them for me.

    I’ve managed to stay open and even secured a major renovation project.

    Thanks for your support and suggesions.

    1. @Mike Mason

      If their reviews were perceived by Google as not high enough quality the first time or more likely that the posters’ Google authority was not high enough to warrant that their reviews be posted, then having them go at it a second time is a futile exercise.

      You might want to ask them to review you at CitySearch or InsiderPages, you might want to ask others that are heavier Google users to review you at Google, but repeating the same process with Google is likely to produce the same outcome… it is after all a machine.

      If you didn’t read this piece on asking for reviews yet, you might want to.

  33. Thanks for responding.

    The 8 best reviews were removed. I’m just thankful I was put back on so I can get market exposure again. That is a great article on posting elsewhere at CitySearch. A couple of customers have posted in other places for me already. Keep up the good work.

  34. I received a call from 650-253-2000 (which I believe is Google Maps?). Some time ago, I had programmed that # into my phone so that I would know to pick up if they ever called except I was in the middle of talking with a client so I did not look at the caller ID. My Google Plus listing has been active for quite a while now. I verified by mail months ago. Haven’t made any edits recently. Any idea why they would be calling me?

  35. In the past couple of months, I did post in some of the Google help forums as well as on your site here about review issues. I can’t imagine the call was them responding to my complaints about missing reviews. Would they do that?

  36. Oops… this is part 2 of post #49

    I received a call from 650-253-2000. I had this # programmed in my phone as Google Maps. Missed the call. Wondering why they would be calling me since I haven’t made any changes to my Google Plus listing in a while and the listing has been up and running for months now. Verification was done by mail months ago.

  37. I have been verified at least two times and they still pull my site down. It’s been down for several weeks. Google team does respond telling me to wait an undetermined amount of time but that doesn’t pay the bills. I keep asking for help, and I get the same answer. They do say don’t mess with the dashboard. It is set correctly.

  38. Here is the last I heard from Google. I hope it can help others:

    Hello,

    Thanks for checking in.

    The technical issue affecting your listing removal has affected many business listings, and we’re currently working with our engineering team to help us restore removed listings which meet our quality guidelines. Unfortunately, we still can’t give a timeline for when this will be finalized, but we’re hoping it will be soon.

    Thanks for your continued patience. I’ll be following up with you once the reinstatement is processed.

    Additionally, we do not recommend deleting and recreating your listing, as this will cause the new listing to become merged with the bugged listing and make the issue worse. We recommend that you sit-tight while our engineers work on a resolution.

    Regards,

    Dane
    The Google Team

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