Google today cracked down on robocallers that make illegal, recorded solicitation calls concerning local business listings and other Google services.
The recordings imply the callers are representing Google. But they really are independent firms attempting to sell their services to small businesses using misrepresentation.
Google’s action includes setting up an online security center about robocall scams. Included on that site is a form to report robocall activity.
Google also filed a lawsuit against a marketing agency that it alleges is making such robocalls. The lawsuit, against Local Lighthouse Corp. of Tustin, California, was filed in federal court for the Northern District of California. A copy of the lawsuit complaint is embedded below (and found here).
How Robocallers Mislead Small Businesses
According to Google, some firms use these illegal robocalling tactics to try to trick local businesses into hiring them for services. Some of these shady firms have even hijacked local business listings through asking for passwords to local business listing dashboards.
These callers bombard small business people with misleading offers to improve search rankings, improve AdWords positions, or improve their ‘Google My Business’ profiles.
Despite the implication in some recordings that the firms are calling on official Google business, Google says it has nothing to do with the calls.
In an announcement about today’s moves, Brad Wetherall, Google My Business Operations Manager, wrote:
“You’re eating dinner with your family when the phone rings, and you see a phone number that you don’t recognize. You answer and hear a recording: ‘It’s extremely urgent that we speak to the business owner! We’ve tried to reach you numerous times. Our records indicate that your Google Business Listing has not been claimed.’
This is a common type of robocall, or automated phone call that delivers a prerecorded message to sell or market services. Some, like informational notices from a doctor’s office, airline or pharmacy, can be useful and are allowed by law. Many others, however, are both useless and illegal in the United States. As the FTC explains: ‘if the recording is a sales message and you haven’t given your written permission to get calls from the company on the other end, the call is illegal.'”
Google says it has received hundreds of complaints in 2015 alone about so-called Google robocalls.
The Federal Communications Commission said it received over 214,000 complaints about robocalling in general last year. And another federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission, said it filed lawsuits against 600 companies responsible for billions of illegal robocalls.
What To Do About Google Robocalls Scams
If you receive such robocalls from companies suggesting they are from or working with Google, go to the robocall security center. This center contains educational information about your rights and what you can do about robocalls.
Google advises to protect yourself with these tips:
- Hang up (without pressing any more buttons on your phone)
- Register with the Do Not Call registry
- Report such activity using the Google robocall form
When You Might Receive a LEGITIMATE Google Call
Finally, the security center verbiage points out that there are times when someone from Google may be calling you on legitimate business.
How do you know when it’s really someone from Google contacting you? The center states:
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“Unless you specifically requested an automated call, a call from Google will always be from a live person, not a recorded voice. Any emails from Google should come from an email address ending in ‘@google.com.'”