Google said it removed over 3 million fake business profiles from Google Maps in 2018, with more than 90% of those pulled before being seen by users.
Product director Ethan Russell said in a blog post that there are over 200 million places on Google Maps, and the application connects people to businesses more than 9 million times per month, including over 1 billion phone calls and 3 billion requests for directions.
He wrote, “Every month, Maps is used by more than 1 billion people around the world, and every day, we and our users work as a community to improve the map for each other. We know that a small minority will continue trying to scam others, so there will always be work to do, and we’re committed to keep doing better.”
Google’s internal systems were behind 85% of the removals in 2018, while over 250,000 fake business profiles were reported by users.
More than 150,000 user accounts were also disabled for being abusive in 2018, up 50% from the previous year.
Russell said fake business profiles on Google News engage in fraudulent activities including charging business owners for services that are available free-of-charge, as well as impersonating authentic businesses in order to collect and sell potential leads.
He added, “Even though fake business profiles are a small percentage of the overall business profiles on Google, local business scammers have been a thorn in the internet’s side for over a decade. They even existed back when business listings were printed, bound and delivered to your doorstep. We take these issues very seriously and have been using a wide array of techniques and approaches to limit abuse on our platforms.”
Russell also outlined steps that Google has taken thus far in 2019 to combat the issue.
Google introduced a new way to report suspicious business profiles, and the search-engine giant is applying refined techniques to the categories where it is seeing increased fraud activity.
The company is also donating settlement funds from litigation against bad actors to organizations that educate businesses and consumers about fraud.
And he shared the following resources for Google Maps users:
- Google’s policies on businesses representing themselves on its platform and on user-contributed content are available in order to aid users in deciding whether or not to report businesses or content for review.
- Individual businesses can be flagged for removal, and Google will investigate those reports and take action when those businesses are found to be in violation of its policies.
- Multiple business profiles can be reported simultaneously via Google’s business redressal form.