According to a recent report, Google, in conjunction with computer scientists at UCLA San Diego are working on identifying and removing fake business listings on Google Maps.

Since Google Maps results are based on your location, online scammers have been gaming the system by registering fake companies on the service.  According to their estimates, more than 100,000 fake businesses were added to Google Maps between 2014 and 2015 alone.

Spam Locations

The way that it works is that people will register a fake company, so that if somebody searches, Google assumes there is a company (or branch) near their location.  There isn’t, but now the user is on their site, and the chance that they will do business with them is increased. there’s no business there, but because of their “proximity,” they may rank near or at the top of the listings.

More than 40% of fake locations are for contractor services like plumbers, locksmiths, and electricians, and one of the worst parts of this is that very often, users are quoted a low price over the phone to get the sale, but once the contractor is on-site, the price suddenly goes up.

Black Hat SEO

This is just another unscrupulous SEO attempt. Ever since it became important to rank at or near the top of search results, people have been trying to manipulate those results, with greater or lesser degrees of success. And Google has been trying to find ways to prevent it, also with greater or lesser degrees of success.

The vast majority of these fake business listings are in the US, followed by India and France.  Luckily, it hasn’t been much of an issue in SA yet, and with Google working on detecting common discrepancies so algorithms can identify them, limiting the number of verification confirmations that can be sent to a specific address, and preventing some of the common tricks like non-existent suite numbers, hopefully they will have become even better at preventing it so that it doesn’t ever become the kind of problem it is in the US.