Google has responded to a Wall Street Journal investigation claiming Maps is home to millions of fake business listings.
The article goes into great detail to examine the issue of fake listings in Google Maps. Here’s an example of what The Journal found in one area of New York City:
“A search for plumbers in a swath of New York City found 13 false addresses out of the top 20 Google search results. Only two of the 20 are located where they say and accept customers at their listed addresses, requirements for pushpin listings on Google Maps.”
While some fake listings only direct customers to phantom businesses, others exist to scam customers out of significant sums of money.
In other cases, fake listings are set up by competitors to misdirect customers. This is strictly forbidden by Google, but the Wall Street Journal says the policy is not well enforced.
According to WSJ’s sources, hundreds of thousands of fake listings are popping up each month:
“Hundreds of thousands of false listings sprout on Google Maps each month, according to experts. Google says it catches many others before they appear.”
Shortly after the Wall Street Journal’s article started to spread, Google published an article on its blog titled “How we fight fake business profiles on Google Maps.”
Google acknowledges there’s a problem with fake business listings, although it was careful not to reveal any specific details:
“It’s a constant balancing act and we’re continually working on new and better ways to fight these scams using a variety of ever-evolving manual and automated systems. But we can’t share too many details about these efforts without running the risk of actually helping scammers find new ways to beat our systems—which defeats the purpose of all the work we do.”
Google says it took down over 3 million fake business profiles last year – 90% were removed before a user could even see the profile.
Google’s internal systems were responsible for 85% of those removals, while roughly 250,000 of the fake business profiles were reported by users.
So it sounds like there is significant progress being made with respect to stopping bad actors in Google Maps before they can scam customers.
Google recognizes there is still more work to be done and says it is committed to doing better.