Cons and scams certainly aren’t unique to the Internet Age, but it definitely seems like they’re lurking around every corner lately. At one time or another, we’ve all received spam e-mails, Facebook messages, and phone calls from individuals who are posing as other people to trick us into giving up our money or personal information. That “Nigerian prince” e-mail chain from 15 years ago may not be circulating anymore, but plenty of other, more convincing scams have taken its place. Scams that involve shady companies pretending to be Google are a prime example.
7 Ways to Spot the Scam
In these Google scams, regular business owners are bombarded with unsolicited phone calls from individuals pretending to be from Google. You should be very wary of any phone call “from Google” if the caller does any of the following:
- Tells you that you’re not ranking
- Tells you that your site is not mobile friendly
- Tells you that your listing is not verified
- Offers you a certain placement or position on Google
- Discusses your performance on Google
- Even mentions SEO or optimization
- Asks for money or payment (unless it’s an AdWords pitch)
Google will never, ever call you out of the blue to discuss any of the above topics. Google would not be concerned about improving your rankings or optimizing your business’s listing in any way. Moreover, if your site is not mobile friendly, you would receive an e-mail or pop-up notification on your Google My Business page directly from Google saying as much. Google wouldn’t go out of its way to call you just to tell you that. Finally, Google typically doesn’t even call businesses unless they’ve already been verified by PIN, so you can ignore any phony caller who’s posing as a Google representative and telling you that your listing is not verified.
What Do Legitimate Google Calls Look Like?
First of all, the only two numbers that we know to be associated with Google for unsolicited calls are (650) 253-0000 and (650) 253-2000. These are the only two legitimate Google phone numbers we’ve seen in our seven years of operation. However, if there are any other authentic Google phone numbers out there, they will always have a (650) area code (for Mountain View, CA). If Google does call you unsolicited, it will be an extremely rare occasion, and it will only be for one of two reasons:
- Google might call about your Google My Business listing for quality control purposes. The caller will just ask you about the information on your listing in order to confirm your service offerings, physical address, and other pertinent info. This is standard procedure as Google wants to ensure the accuracy of the information it’s publishing (after all, its credibility is on the line). These calls typically come from one of Google’s outsourced call centers overseas; the caller will most likely have a foreign accent.
- Google might also call you to sell AdWords or AdWords Express. These calls will be obvious sales pitches for AdWords, and they will not discuss rankings or positioning on search results pages. Furthermore, these calls will be from one of Google’s domestic headquarters; the caller will most likely have an American accent.
Again, it bears repeating that Google will never try to optimize your website or Google My Business listing. It’s okay if the caller asks you about information on your listing as a way of verifying what’s already in the system, but your guard should go up as soon as they start asking you for your credit card number or other sensitive information.
What If It Feels Like a Scam?
If any red flags appear to you during the phone call, simply ask the caller directly if they are from Google. If they answer you by saying that they “work with” or are “partners with” Google, then they’re clearly trying to skirt around the question. It’s important to note that many second-rate advertising companies will claim to be partners with Google. This terminology is misleading because it makes it sound like the company has a special deal or affiliation with Google—but that’s not the truth at all. When an advertising company brags about being a Google Partner, it really just means someone from that company passed Google’s AdWords and Analytics exams online. Any advertiser can become a Google Partner. If an advertiser tries to use this certification as a way to trick people into believing that they have a special relationship with Google, that should tell you they represent a dishonest company, and you should act accordingly. However, if you’ve received a phone call from a true scam artist—not just a desperate advertising company—then there’s a chance they will lie and claim that they are indeed from Google. In these cases, it’s critical for you to trust your instincts. If you’ve gotten a bad vibe during the conversation and the caller has raised any of the red flags explained above, then you should not trust them. Instead, you should terminate the phone call and report it to one of the many online scam alert websites.