Is that phone call really from Google?

Many small businesses across the country report continuing to receive phone calls from telemarketers claiming to be Google. Although this Google phone scam is several years old (it began in earnest in 2011 around the time that Google Local was really taking off), it obviously has yet to run its course.

These calls are automated, meaning when you pick up the phone you’ll hear a recorded message asking you to press a button to speak with a representative. While the “representatives” claim an association with Google, they are actually from unethical companies that are selling verification services or various online marketing schemes, trying to procure sensitive information, or otherwise luring small businesses into giving them their money.

These type of robocalls are actually illegal in the United States (under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act), and Google has nothing to do with them. However, the company’s reputation has suffered for this, as many recipients have come to mistakenly believe over the years that Google is involved with the calls.

Google has had enough. In September, 2015, the Internet giant filed a lawsuit against the SEO firm it claims is behind many of these telemarketing calls, Local Lighthouse Co., based in Tustin, California. The suit is pending in the Northern District of California.  Along with the lawsuit, Google also launched a new Safety Center page, giving small business owners clear directives on how best to handle, report, and prevent robocall scams.

How to Know if It’s a Scam

To start, it’s important for small businesses to know that Google does reach out to businesses to verify business information or confirm details for Google Maps. However, in this case, they will only ask for location information or questions related to a business listing; no selling or exchange of money is involved. The best way for small businesses to protect themselves is to keep themselves informed on Google’s latest business practices.

On the help page of its My Business site, Google makes clear what phone calls do not come from the company. Knowing Google’s company policies can help you detect the red flags much sooner. Remember that a Google associate will never:

  • Charge a small business for inclusion in Google My Business or Google Search.
  • Offer a fee-based service to improve your business’s search ranking or manage your online profile.
  • Ask you for sensitive information over the phone about your Google account, including your Google password or verification code.

If you do happen to receive a robocall claiming to be associated with Google, the Federal Trade Commission has now established a consumer information site that walks you through the steps you can take to protect yourself and your business. In addition, if your number is already on the Do Not Call list, you are strongly encouraged to file a complaint at the National Do Not Call Registry.

More on reporting Google Scams