A great benefit of having technology constantly evolving is the way it helps make life's tasks easier. For example, if you have an emergency situation such as being locked out of your car and are far away from home, you can use your smartphone to find a nearby locksmith. It's so much simpler than the days of yesteryear.
Unfortunately, as with most things, scammers have found another way to use technology against us. It turns out that if you're using Google Maps to find certain businesses, there's a chance it's a fraud.
There is a growing epidemic of fake business listings popping up on Google Maps. Google, along with the University of California, studied the problem and found tens of thousands of scam listings being added to the service each month.
Unaccredited contractors have found a way around Google's business verification process, which allows them to show up on Maps as being legit. Unsuspecting consumers are then hiring them and being scammed out of money once the contractor shows up for the job.
How the scam works
A consumer finds the fraudulent contractor on Google Maps and calls them for an estimate to complete a job. The scammer gives a quote that is extremely lower than competing businesses, so they get the job.
Once the fraudster shows up to perform the task, the victim is informed it will cost several times more than the quote they were given over the phone. Since these scams target emergency situations, like a plumbing emergency or being locked out of your car, the victim usually pays the price.
The study shows contractors are the most rampant form of fake business listings. Locksmiths, plumbers and electricians are the top three fake listings. Here is a chart breaking down the fake listings by business category:
Image: Fake business listings found on Google Maps. (Source: Google)
What you need to do
Google is taking the findings of the study seriously. The company is taking steps to eliminate these fake businesses from showing up on Google Maps.
Until they have completely eliminated this problem though, you should be extra careful when looking to find a business to hire. If you do find one on Google Maps, before hiring them, do an online search to see if there are reviews of the business. If it's a scam it's possible that you will see reviews from others who have been ripped off.
You can also check sites like Yelp for information on businesses. If there's anything fishy going on you can learn about it there.
Your best bet in finding a contractor is to perform an online search for businesses that are well-reviewed. It's better to take that extra step of verifying a business than to fall for one of these scams.