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When people search for your business or services you offer, your Google Business Profile can appear in results. In this way, it’s one of the most important resources in your online marketing strategy. And you’re not the only one who sees its value. Since the platform was introduced, there’s been a rise in scammers trying to hijack Google Business Profile listings and take over them. Don’t let it happen to you! We cover the reason behind these scams, the type of scams, ways to protect your listing, and the action to take if you fall victim to a scam.
How Google Business Profile scams impact you
Your Google Business Profile gives you a presence on Google search result pages. Besides providing a snapshot of your business information, it provides a way to interact with potential and current clients. When set up correctly, your Google Business Profile can boost your search rankings.
By taking over your profile, scammers can change your name and lock you out of your account. They can use access to your account as a way of extorting funds from you. If you’ve put time into nurturing a trustworthy and authentic listing, scammers can use this to contact your listing visitors and direct them to other pages. Scammers can even sell your listing to someone else, they can rename it and leverage off your ranking, or rent out your listing to a company that specialises in spamming people.
It’s also possible for a competitor to hack your profile so they can undo all the effort you’ve placed into your listing. They could redirect links to their website or change your contact information. Hackers who aim to be simply disruptive can also alter information on your page in a way that damages your reputation.
Types of Google Business Profile scams
Google Business Profile scammers and hackers have a variety of ways to take control and use your listing to their advantage. Exercise constant vigilance at all times. Here are four of the most common listing scams you should be aware of:
1. Request access scam: Scammers are using the “Own this business?” feature to become owners of listings. Google will send you an email asking for login information in an attempt to gain access. The email is legitimate, however, the request will be from someone not associated with your company or digital marketing agency. If you accidentally provide permission, the scammer could change the name of your listing and lock you out of your account.
2. Phone call scam: You might receive a call from a person that presents themself as a Google representative. Even though Google Business Profiles are free and don’t expire, the caller might try to convince you of this. They will attempt to solicit funds from you to keep your profile active. In other cases, they might try to sign you up for listing management services that Google doesn’t offer.
3. Suggest an edit scam: Unethical competitors can potentially update information on your profile. Google provides a “Suggest an edit” that can allow people to tweak your listing information. By adding the incorrect website, for example, they can impact your website traffic from this listing, even sending people to questionable websites. By changing your address, they can reduce your presence in local search results.
4. Fake reviews: More spam than a scam but equally as damaging, is when someone adds fake reviews to your list. With the intention to compromise your rankings and people’s perception of your brand, they can add low star ratings and testimonials with false information about your ethics and staff.
Ways to protect your profile against scamsYour Google Business Profile has so much to offer your business. You’d be surprised at how many have a set-it-and-forget-it approach to this tool. This often leads to issues with scammers and hackers down the line. Here are 10 ways to keep on top of your listing and prevent any future issues:
1. Verify and monitor your listing: The first step to securing your listing is to claim it and verify your business. This can help you identify and prevent any future scams as you will have notifications sent to your email address when any edits or requests are made on your listing.
2. Limit access to your account: By reducing the number of people who have access to your listing, you can make it less likely to be compromised. You can also limit the page access level depending on who is providing specific functions for the listing.
3. Use the same email for your accounts: It’s a good idea to use the same email address from your business domain for Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts. This will help emphasise your legitimate claim to the listing should you need to prove it in the case of a malicious request or hacking.
4. Respond to request access emails ASAP: Cut off any potential access to your account by rejecting unauthorised attempts to access your account within three business days. It’s best not to ignore or delete these emails as the hacker or scammer might get the option to claim the profile after this period has lapsed. After you’ve rejected the email address, you should be prepared to receive a few more requests for ownership under different names.
5. Hang up on dubious calls: Google says they will not make unsolicited sales calls but only phone to confirm your business details for Google Maps, make reservations, or schedule appointments on behalf of Google users.
The best way forward is to hang up and not press any keys prompted by voice recordings if you are unsure. If you think the call is legitimate, you can ask the caller to send you an email from a Google email account (@google.com email) to verify their identity.
6. Prevent any brute force logins: This strategy uses trial-and-error to guess your login information. You can overcome this by choosing a strong password of at least 12 characters long and a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
7. Install a firewall: This protects your computer and data by monitoring and filtering incoming and outgoing network traffic. Any unsolicited or unwanted traffic is blocked. In doing so it assesses incoming traffic for any signs of hackers or malware that could infect your computer and steal data.
8. Always update your software: Hackers take advantage of any software vulnerabilities in your software or operating system. Updates patch up these security flaws to keep hackers out and your computer protected.
9. Report any violations to Google: The search engine has created a tool where you can report scammy practices and policy violations and provide the specific information needed for them to take action against these third parties.
You can also flag off-topic, spammy, or inappropriate reviews. Find the review you'd like to report on your listing’s review section and click on “Report review”.
10. Keep abreast of Google’s security updates: Google Business Profile’s support page provides helpful updates and announcements about new changes to the service. You can also use it to see what updates the search engine has made to make your listing more secure. A recent example is having a new owner or manager added to an existing Business Profile wait for seven days before they can manage all the features of the profile.
What to do if you’ve lost control of your profile
In the unfortunate instance you’ve lost control of your profile, don’t panic. First, ask around in case one of your team members or an external marketing company has taken control of the account. You can use the “Request Ownership” feature on the listing and follow the prompts to regain control of your profile.
In the event of a malicious act, you should immediately contact Google’s support team and start the reclaiming process by filling out this form. The checkbox you’d select is “Third-party claimed your Business Profile without your consent or extorted consent from you”. Google also has a dedicated Google Business Profile Facebook page and Twitter profile (@googlemybiz) you can message (through commenting) or tweet at if you experience any additional challenges.
Take care of your listing with Prop Data
Your Google Business Profile listing gives your business an edge in search engine results. Sadly, scammers and hackers are aware of its usefulness and will take any opportunity to get a hold of your listing. Take the initiative to claim your listing and monitor it on a monthly basis.
If you want more confidence in your listing, entrust it with property marketing and proptech experts. Prop Data offers a set-up service to help you take ownership of your listing and add in all the important information required. We also provide a monthly management service to add in fresh content to keep your listing engaging. Contact your Account Manager or visit our add-ons page to get started.