Rampant Places Scams Bad News for Google’s Local Outreach


ADOTAS – Thanks to NYTimes’ The Haggler (aka, David Segal), I will not be using Google anytime soon to find a locksmith. Apparently a lot of local businesses (such as locksmiths) on Google Places aren’t that local — they’re call centers listing fake addresses and gaming Google’s algorithm to get priority placement. Some of these “companies” are pure scam jobs, quoting consumers low prices and then charging a lot more.

It’s the same case for many local service industries. Long ago I learned to never look for a moving company online — scam artists (“rogue movers” as they were called in the corporate employee relocation industry) will quote you ridiculously low price and then hold your furniture and goods hostage until you meet their demands.

But fraud runs rampant in the local service industry, in general — a Google rep points out to the Haggler that the Yellow Pages has had similar fraud issues for years.

Still, it’s real bad news for Google’s local business outreach efforts — consumers won’t touch the Places product if they know it’s rife with fraud, meaning legitimate companies won’t advertise. Along with mobile commerce, scoring local ad dollars was a central focus of the company for 2011. If Google wants the product to succeed, they’ll have to seriously up the diligence factor and put on their vetting goggles.

That’s not something Google is famous for. Once the NYTimes said something (like with JC Penney’s big ol’ black hatting earlier this year), Google responded and cleaned up the Seattle locksmith market… Sorta — the only listing surviving the scrubbing appeared to be a call center with a fake address.

If you’re looking for a locksmith, movers or most other local services, you tend to ask acquaintances for recommendations. Hence why social media like Facebook have proved to be better outlets for local marketing — word of mouth thrives on social networks.


  1. Seems a bit like shouting fire in a crowded theatre, Gavin. Or calling an occasional hiccup out to be a trend.
    Personally, based on my own due diligence and experiences, Places is the best thing for small business marketing in a generation.
    But there will always be G haters… and that’s too bad.

  2. I’m going to disagree with Scott’s comment on this one. As the owner of a locksmith company, I see first hand how many bogus listings are out there by dubious companies. We had one client get a $1200 bill for a home rekey by using a company posting one of these phony listings.

    Listing a fake business address and a fake business name (like 24/7 Phoenix Locksmith) in Google Places is against Google policy. Here in Phoenix there are over 3000 such listings last time I checked.

    Posting a fake name or phony address is also lying to you the consumer. Why would anyone use someone to protect their home and family that has already lied to you in their advertising?


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