Google is trialling a new method for reducing scams, forcing plumbers and locksmiths to go through an advanced verification process to appear in local search results.
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Google tests process out on San Diego locksmiths and plumbers
The search engine giant is putting the extra security measures in place to stop con artists who appear in local Google search results. The locksmith scam is the most well-known, but other trade types have also been targeted.
The advanced verification process is currently being trialled on plumbers and locksmiths based in the Greater San Diego area of California, but in the future it may be rolled out to more businesses. There’s speculation that it may eventually apply in the UK, and that more trade types will be affected.
Google’s advanced verification process
In a statement, Google played down the process of applying for advanced verification:
“To help reduce fraud and improve the overall experience for you and your customers, we’re now asking businesses to pass an advanced verification process. The process is simple — answer a few questions about your business and complete an application with Google’s third-party verification company.
“After passing advanced verification, your business listing will continue to be eligible to appear on Google Maps and the Knowledge Panel.”
The new process involves an application to Pinkerton, a risk management firm partnering with Google on the project. It takes about two weeks to receive verification.
Businesses that fail to comply will have their listings removed from Google Maps.
The long-running locksmith scam
The con works like this: when you search for a local service like a locksmith, Google serves you results based on your location. The scam companies pretend they have business premises all over the country, so they appear in the search results as local companies offering a good-value service.
When you call the number for the company, you’re put through to an offshore call centre, and a call operator sends over someone nearby who says the problem is worse than expected, takes drastic action (drilling your lock, for example) and then hands you a bill much bigger than the prices promised in the ad.
The scam works particularly well for one-off services that people are searching for in a panic, which is why locksmithing has been such a heavy hitter.
Do you think this advanced verification process sounds like a good idea? Tell us in the comments.