While Google could point to a self-funded study from 2017 that showed just 0.5% of Maps searches brought up false businesses, the WSJ findings were significantly more stark. In all, the paper estimated that the service probably has around 11 million fake businesses around the world, and discovered that 13 out of the top 20 listings for plumbers in New York are fake.
It’s businesses like this – plumbers, electricians, locksmiths – which are most likely to be faked, as people don’t tend to scrutinise them too hard in an emergency. And such counterfeits come in a number of flavours: some will create fake addresses and phone numbers for their rivals to drive down their business, while others will be scam artists just hoping to make a quick buck.
Google has now responded, claiming additional safeguards for “high-risk categories” in its listings, and has also banned the fake businesses highlighted in the WSJ feature. In a blog post, by Google Maps product director Ethan Russell, highlighted that the company took down over three million fake business profiles last year, banning 150,000 accounts in the process. Apparently over 85% of these were spotted by Google’s own systems, while over 250,000 were flagged by the general public.
“Every month Maps is used by more than a billion people around the world, and every day we and our users work as a community to improve the map for each other,” Russell wrote. “We know that a small minority will continue trying to scam others, so there will always be work to do and we8217;re committed to keep doing better.”
Have you encountered a fake business on Google Maps? Let us know on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.