After a recent win in a court case against a Russian-originated bot network, Google has announced a new legal proceeding against a group of scammers that have been seeking to manipulate business owners by calling them up and trying to charge them to access Google My Business.
As explained by Google:
“Today we are filing a lawsuit against scammers who sought to defraud hundreds of small businesses by impersonating Google through telemarketing calls. They also created websites advertising the purchase of fake reviews, both positive and negative, to manipulate reviews of Business Profiles on Google Search and Maps.”
Google says that the fraudsters call up business owners and seek to charge them for their Google Business Profiles, which you can (and should) access for free.
“A Business Profile is a tool that allows business owners to take charge of the way their business appears on Search and Maps, and it allows consumers to find their favorite (or, soon-to-be favorite) coffee shops, restaurants or hardware stores. It’s a tool designed to empower people. However, some scammers have tried to abuse and profit from it through deceptive and predatory practices.”
Google says that in 2021 alone, it detected and stopped more than 12 million attempts by bad actors to create fake Business Profiles, and nearly 8 million attempts to claim Business Profiles that didn’t belong to them.
This new legal push aims to establish a precedent for such, which could then better enable Google to combat this type of fraud in future. Which is an important push, particularly on behalf of less web-savvy business owners who know that they need to make Google and SEO a focus, but don’t know that they can already access such tools for free.
It’s good to see Google, along with Meta, making a bigger push against such scams, which will also help to refresh the legal process for combating new types of online deception. LinkedIn also recently had a court win in its case against data scraping, while Meta has launched a range of legal actions this year, taking aim at phishing, fake reviews, data scraping and more.
Many of these types of activity don’t have direct legal precedent, and current laws don’t cover all of these newer elements and aspects. AI generators are the latest example in this respect, with AI tools now able to create visuals that are clearly derivative of artists' work, but technically don’t violate copyright.
It’s cases like these, brought by the tech giants, that help to establish new approaches, which account for tech advances - and as such, it’s important that the more well-resourced companies look to push such, which will have benefits for all.