We’ve heard it many times from our clients. “Google called the other day…” Sometimes it’s to sell advertising, sometimes it’s to tell them their listing is incorrect. We’ve even heard that “Google told me that my business wouldn’t be listed properly without purchasing services.”
Have you been getting these calls from Google Affiliates?
Typically, the call will start with a recording that prompts recipients to press a button in order to speak with a representative about claiming or updating their Google My Business profile or to hear how they should be performing better in Google search or AdWords.
When we hear these things, we always tell our clients that Google never places automated calls, unless you’ve requested the call. Often times, there’s a call from Google to verify your Google My Business page, inquire about maps details, discuss AdWords and other products, but the company says these calls are always from live representatives, never automated.
If it’s not Google calling, then who?
While there are Google partners (companies that have been educated and certified by Google to sell Google pay-per-click services), there really are no Google affiliates that would be calling your business. Even Google Partners must be very clear that they are not affiliated with Google. So who’s making these calls claiming to be Google affiliates?
On Wednesday, Google filed suit against SEO Company Local Lighthouse Corp for placing robocalls and falsely claiming to be Google affiliates.
The suit claims that Local Lighthouse Corp “sales agents have made and continue to make various false and misleading claims during Defendant’s telemarketing calls to confuse consumers regarding the true source or nature of Defendant’s services and the relationship between Google and Defendant” and “exploits such confusion to induce consumers to enter into contracts costing hundreds of dollars in recurring monthly bills.”
As an example, Google claims Local Lighthouse “sales agents have made statements such as: ‘We’re a Google subcontractor,’ ‘we’re working for Google,’ ‘the $100 fee [to initiate Defendant’s services] goes to Google,’ and Defendant’s customers’ webpages ‘will show up multiple times on the front page and get what’s called ‘Front Page Domination.’”
The aim is likely to sell local search optimization services or to get login information to hijack business listings or spam Maps listings, this type of deceptive automated calls claiming to be affiliated with the search engine giant are illegal.
What can you do?
In addition to filing legal action, Google also launched a new Safety Center page for users who receive robocalls from companies claiming to be Google affiliates. Google explains steps users should take to protect themselves from further calls:
If you receive an unwanted robocall from a recorded voice claiming to be Google or a Google affiliate hang up immediately. Pressing a button suggests you are interested in receiving more calls.
Check with your phone company to see if they can block calls from any problematic numbers and register your personal number with the National Do Not Call Registry at: www.donotcall.gov/register/reg.aspx or call 1-888-382-1222.
If you continue to receive unwanted calls, you can submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission or call 1-888-382-1222 to file a formal complaint.
Contact them directly. Make sure to include the caller’s company and contact information, any emails or documentation received from the caller as part of a follow-up, and any additional information about the call.