I know, I know. I’m about to sound like a broken record. I’m about to remind you how important it is to have consistent, accurate online listings if you want to get found in local searches online. Kudos to you if you take great care of your online listings! Because if you do, it’s positively impacting your search rankings.
When you’re listed online, it’s not just consumers who can find you. The online listings sites you’ve claimed your listings on also like to call you to confirm your information. Then, you may have noticed that a majority of them try to upsell you additional advertising and listings maintenance services.
It’s bittersweet right?
On one hand, you could be on your way to a stellar online presence. So you take the calls. But on the other hand, that’s a lot of phone calls to field that take away from time you could be spending with paying customers.
The Latest Online Listings Scam
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), even businesses who do almost everything right with online directories aren’t immune to scammers.
Here’s how the online listings scam works.
Scammers know that small business owners get calls regularly from online listings sites. They also know business owners like you have a vested interest in keeping your information safe and secure on these sites.
So they’re scamming the system.
Scammers are calling small business owners pretending to represent a top online listings site or directory, Google or Yellow Pages for example. They may even come up with a fake name for a directory you’ve never heard of. Then, just like representatives from the real business listings sites do, scammers offer to confirm and update the business’s information over the phone.
Many business owners, because they care about their online listings, give the person on the other end of the line “permission” to update their listings.
Here’s the “gotcha.” After all this is done, perhaps even weeks later, they send an invoice in the mail charging the business for hundreds of dollars, either for listings management services or an ad. When the business owner calls to complain or dispute the charge, the representative says that an employee verbally confirmed the placement.
How to Protect against an Online Listings Scam
This isn’t the first type of online listings scam. It seems eerily similar to one we wrote about in 2016, where scammers posed as Google and attempted to charge business owners for updating their listings over the phone.
But even though scammers may be able to find you online, you don’t have to fall victim to an online listings scam. You, and your staff, should know the steps below to best protect your business from an online listings scam.
Know your listings.
Whether you manage your listings yourself or through a management service like Thryv, you should know every site your business is listed on. If you use a management service, there’s no need to double-check your information across these sites. But if you manage your business listings yourself, you should be checking in often. That way, if someone calls asking to confirm your listing on a site you’re familiar with, you’ll already know whether or not it could use some help.
Do your research.
If you get calls from online listings sites or scammers, chances are you’ll be sitting in front of a computer or with a smartphone in your hand. If you haven’t heard of the listings site mentioned, do a quick online search to see if you can verify the company. Chances are that if it’s a scam, there are already threads online warning business owners like you not to engage.
Don’t give up your information.
Scammers will do everything they can to get your name, business name and mailing address so they can send you that bogus invoice. While they may be able to find some of this online, chances are they won’t have all of it. So hold on tight to your information, and be careful who you share it with.
Ask if they intend to charge you.
Ask upfront if there will be a charge after the phone call. Reputable companies have to be clear and honest about fees or costs associated with managing your listings or placing ads on their sites. Scammers will likely be caught off guard by this question and might bumble around or skirt the subject.
Try not to say “yes” to anything.
Avoiding the word, “yes” may sound tough or silly, but get this. According to the BBB, these scammers have been known to splice recorded phone calls to make it sound like you actually agreed to whatever service they intend to invoice you for later. So if able, avoid agreeing to any of their questions without further vetting their company.
Outsource your listings management.
Businesses who use listings management services like Thryv don’t have to worry about whether or not these calls are legitimate. Since Thryv loads business information across the top directory sites and locks them down, business owners that use the software never have to interact with these directories or double-check their information. Learn more about Thryv.