If you’ve been on the internet for any time at all, you know that phishing scams run amok. Hackers try to gain access to email, infiltrate hard drives, and steal important information all the time. Every day, scammers try to take advantage of individuals and businesses, alike. Unfortunately, even your Google Business Profile (GBP) can be at risk to hackers and malicious attacks. Below are some common Google Business Profile scams and hacks, and what you can do to prevent your profile from becoming compromised.
Common Instances of Google Business Profile Scams and Hacks
Smart scammers will try virtually anything to gain access to your Google Business Profile—calls, online requests, fake reviews, etc.—you name it, they’ll try it. Here are a handful to look out for so your profile doesn’t fall into the wrong hands:
Spam phone calls. Scammers may continually call your business, identifying themselves as Google employees, and saying they need ownership of your profile or a sum of money (x$) for Google to claim it. However, Google will never directly call your business unless prompted by you (or the business owner, if you aren’t that person) beforehand.
Suggest an edit to GBP. Hackers can be crafty, and will sometimes try to “Trojan horse” your Google Business Profile. Sometimes they’ll suggest an edit to your GBP that can cause damage to your business. For instance, they could suggest and edit your business hours, website URL, update your business category, or even add a terrible or otherwise off-color picture. To prevent this, claim your GBP profile as your own and regularly monitor it.
Request access scam. Unfortunately, anyone on the internet can request access to your GBP profile. To stop it from becoming compromised, you need to ensure you have ownership access. Otherwise, someone else can take your account. It’s also recommended to never grant account access to someone you don’t know. Here’s an example request for reference.
Leave fake reviews. Scammers will leave fake reviews with little or no context. This kind of fake review spam (pictured below) can impact your profile and give off a bad impression to potential customers/clientele. You’ll want to leave a reply with a way for that person to reach out to you directly about their experience (if they are, indeed, an unsatisfied customer and not a bad review spammer).
Spam GBP messages. If your GBP message feature is turned on, chances are you’ll receive spam messages in your inbox. If it smells fishy (or, should we say, “phish-y”), it probably is.
How to Prevent Online Marketing Scams Like These
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent falling prey to digital marketing scams that affect your Google Business Profile. We’ve listed some of the most important below for reference.
- Claim and routinely monitor your listing. This should be the first step you do. Having access and verification to your Google Business Profile can help you thwart future GBP scams, with any listing notifications being sent directly to your email.
- Have the same email between accounts. Using the same email address between GBP, Google Search Console, and Google Analytics is highly recommended. Doing this brings further legitimacy to a listing claim or reported instance of account hacking.
- Limit account access. As mentioned previously, you’ll want to put a cap on people who have access to your GBP listing, which will help decrease the chance of it getting hacked. Additionally, you can limit page access level for further controls.
- Be quick to respond to account access requests. When your GBP is linked to your email, you’re ahead of the game when it comes to GBP scamming. You can reject unauthorized attempts to access your account within three business days. You don’t want to delete or ignore these emails as the scammer could obtain access to your profile after this time period. It’s good to note that even once you’ve rejected the email address, you might see more requests come through under different profiles and/or email addresses.
- Use a strong password. Like other online accounts and portals, it’s recommended to choose a strong password (minimum of 12 characters with upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols) to prevent accounting hacking.
- Keep Google notified. Google has a free-to-use tool that allows you to report scams and policy violations, notifying them about steps they can take against these profiles and accounts. There’s also an option to flag spam, irrelevant, and/or inappropriate Google reviews. Just click on the review you’d like to notify Google about and hit “Report review.”
Recently, Google has reaffirmed their commitment to protecting small business owners from malicious intent and bad actors. On Nov. 29, Google filed a lawsuit against fraudster companies pretending to be Google, many of which sold fake reviews that would affect Google Business Profiles or tried to charge for GBPs. Through this suit (and other actions like it), Google hopes to hold malicious parties accountable and do what they can for small businesses seeking to use Google to communicate with their customers and grow their clientele. Google advises to avoid acting too quickly upon suspicious behavior, hang up when you’re unsure, look into companies trying to contact you, and report potential scammers to Google.
What to Do If I’ve Lost Access to My Google Business Profile
There are things you can do if you no longer have access to your Google Business Profile. For instance, you can employ the “Request Ownership” feature on the listing and go through the prompts to recover control of your GBP.
If you suspect a hack or scam attack, immediately contact Google’s support team and begin the process to regain your profile. And, to help ensure your GBP doesn’t become compromised from the get-go, reach out to Uptick Marketing for GBP verification, monitoring, updating, and more. We’ve worked with thousands of businesses just like yours in improving their GBP and local SEO practices.