Keeping tabs on your online listings, SEO, Google Rankings all while dealing with all the ins-and-outs of having a website is seriously hard work.
The truth about having a healthy online presence for your business these days is that it can come with a healthy dose of attention from scammers. It’s now commonplace for a business that is on top of its online profiles to experience some sort of attempted scam.
Here are some common scam attempts with seen recently
“Hello, It’s Google…”
Let me state this up front – the likelihood that an actual human being from Google would ever call you about anything is statistically zero.
Google, as much as you’d like to think differently, doesn’t really care about you and they certainly don’t care enough to employ humans to sit around making unsolicited phone calls.
Overall, Google is a collector of information, but rarely ever an initiator of getting that information from offices. They’ll let you post as much inaccurate information on your profiles as you want no matter the consequences. As far as they’re concerned, what you say and post about your business online is your problem, not theirs.
Here are common scams we’ve seen from people claiming to be Google:
- Calls regarding updates to your business or map listings.
- Calls regarding improvements or corrections to your Google rankings.
- Calls regarding someone hacking your Gmail account(s).
- Calls about inaccurate data on any of your Google My Business pages.
A human from Google will likely never call you. Importantly, this includes robocalls that transfer to an actual person. The only time Google is ever going to call you is to confirm something you’ve initiated with them, such as a business address for your Google Maps listing. Even then, it’s going to be a robocall and not an actual human. Even at ClearPG, we rarely need to talk to a human at Google on the phone about support-related issues.
Domains Registration Scams
Every year, our office responds to dozens of emails about letters telling our clients that their domains are expiring.
So here’s how it works: You get an official looking letter in the mail from a company that says something about your domain needing to be re-registered. Usually, it’s on a blue letterhead with some clip art they stole out of Microsoft Word in 1997. Take a look at the letter below. You can see the language is very convincing.
But here’s the catch. The letter looks exactly like a bill for a service you’ve paid in the past!
So what is this? Well, technically it’s not a scam as much is it is a company who tries to use scary, confusing language to sell you a service that lists your website on a few online directories. The crummy part of this is that they always make it sound like your domain name is actually expiring! As we’ve covered before, local citations are a real thing and have relevance to you and your business, but this letter is not that, exactly. This is a predatory company who is banking on the reality that so many businesses don’t really know or remember when or how they are paying for their web hosting and domain names.
Here’s what usually happens.
The office manager gets a letter or an email that looks somewhat official telling them their subscription is due. It says something about re-registering your domain with their “Domain Services” and that your service will expire on a certain date if you don’t pay the attached invoice. The office manager, not wanting to bother their boss, assumes its official and sends in a check so that they keep their domain for another year.
The success rate of this con is so high that these companies are making millions of dollars every year just stuffing envelopes with letters.
If you receive one of these letters, rest easy. It’s highly unlikely that your domain is going to expire or that you owe this company money. You’re usually safe to throw it away – but do be sure to check who you purchased your domains through. However… if you are still unsure, Google the exact company name and take a look at other people who have received the same letter. Look up the companies BBB ratings and see if there are any official complaints. If you’re still unsure, email us! We’d be happy to help whether you’re a ClearPG client or not.
Local Listings Scam
This scam is relatively new and in a few cases we’ve seen, somewhat complex.
The scam effects small businesses who have actively decided to fill out their location citations and listings on websites like Yelp, Chamber of Commerce, and Yellow Pages (Which you should be doing!).
A few days later, a company calls to tell you they saw you working on your local listing (What Are Local Listings?) and now you need to take action to get everything published. They will read off some publicly available information to you to try and confirm your business information and gain your trust. Usually, they will ask for information that is intentionally missing from your listings, such as the owner’s phone number or private email addresses. The actual scam occurs when they ask you to pay a small fee to get your businesses listings activated.
Here’s what you should know:
- If you are managing your listings manually, no third-party should ever call you to demand money.
- The vast majority of listings are free, so no one should be calling you to demand money.
- If you’ve hired a company, like ClearPG, to help manage your listings, then you’ve already paid everything. There’s no third-party that should ever call and demand money.
This is simply a case of a predatory company cross-referencing new business listings and then calling them to see if they can get a quick buck out of you.
No one is going to call you asking you to pay for listings over the phone. 99.99% of listing websites out there are free to publish your information to. The ones that are not free are rare and make sure you know they aren’t free, so you’re unlikely to run across one of these. When people pay for citation management, they are paying for the ability to sync citations and manage massive lists, not the actual listing itself.
Search Engine Registration Scam
Search engines will never charge you to index your website. Ever.
If anyone asks you to pay for the act of registering your site on Google Search, Yahoo!, or Bing… it’s a scam. Repeat this with me, folks! You Never Have To Pay To Get Your Website On Google!
It can be confusing because people know you have to pay for Google Adwords and Google Adsense. Scammers prey on that confusion to make a quick buck. This specific scam has nothing to do with paid advertising. This has to do with the idea that if you do nothing, search engines won’t even find you…ever. Not even on the 100th page. This isn’t how search engines work.
Bottom Line: Again, you never have to pay search engines to simply index or find your site. This has nothing to do with paid advertising. It’s a scam.
What Should I do now?
I get it. It’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the crap that is out there unless that’s your job.
Tracking internet scammers is a never-ending task, it’s not fun by any stretch of the imagination, and you have to be very familiar with the outlets they are trying to use to scam you. A good rule of thumb is that if it sounds or feels like a scam, just hang up. If it’s not a scam, they’re going to get in touch with you again, and probably not over the phone.
The last takeaway worth mentioning is that huge corporations will not call you. (Unless it’s Yelp, but they’re desperate to upsell you – that’s for another day ;)) If they do call you, make them prove they are who they say they are and be aggressive about it. Don’t give out any information and by all means, don’t pay them over the phone. Always feel free to say your busy and you have to go, because you’re a business, after all and you have patients or customers. Scammers won’t listen and will keep you on the phone while legitimate businesses will understand.
So we’re curious! What scams have you seen recently?