Sneaky “Google” Scam

Google called us last week. At least, they said they were Google. Turns out they weren’t– instead, they were crooks, hoping to scam us. Luckily, we were a little suspicious and didn’t get suckered into handing over our money but it would have been easy to be fooled. Here’s how the scam goes– make sure it doesn’t happen to you!

First, the phone call comes from an Oklahoma area code. Google, of course, is in California. But, when they call and say it’s Google calling it is sort of exciting– “Imagine! Google is calling ME!”– and you might not pay attention to the area code. Pay attention. They are trying to steal your money.

Then, they will rattle off some information that they say is in your Google listing, such as your company name and address and phone number. They will tell you that part of the information is wrong– in our case, they told us that our listing showed a home address rather than the business one– and that it should be corrected in order to make it easier for potential customers to find us via Google. Sounds reasonable. Most businesses wants more customers, and most businesses hope that someone will use Google to search for the business, and find it. The person on the phone says that he will help you correct this information.

Early in the conversation they ask “Are you authorized?” They don’t explain what they mean by that. But, they really, REALLY want you to say yes, and that’s because they are recording the conversation, and they want to have “yes I am authorized” on tape.

The rest of the conversation is hard to understand. The reason it’s hard to understand is that while the phony “Google” person is talking to you he is also playing a tape recording saying something like “You are authorizing XYZ company to optimize your search engine listing and for that you will be charged $70 per month for three months. The charge will appear on your phone bill as XYZ Services Inc.” Then, the phony Google person says– in unison with the recording– “Do you understand?” If you say “Yes” it goes onto the tape, and the next thing you know they’re charging you $70 per month, on your phone bill, and if you try to get your money back they’ll have a tape recording of you saying that Yes, you are authorized, and Yes, you understand. Pretty clever. And pretty rotten.

Google has nothing to do with this scam. The bad guys are using Google’s name to give them the sound of legitimacy. Tell the people who answer your phones to be suspicious of anyone “calling from Google” (because Google doesn’t call), and while they’re at it be suspicious of anyone calling from “The Online Yellow Pages” or anything like that. Rather than having a conversation on the phone, ask the caller to send you something written, in the mail. If they’re legit they will, but don’t wait by the mailbox, because they probably aren’t legit. Almost all of these “Online Yellow Pages” are scams, so they won’t send you anything at all. In that case, consider yourself lucky. Tell your employees, tell your friends– don’t fall for this scam.

Of course there will be another scam tomorrow but at least you’re ready for these guys now.


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