Google calling? Not. Bloody. Likely.

Google may be the most often used business service that the average person doesn’t really understand at all. The business is so familiar to people that the name of the company, “Google,” is often used as a verb, to “google” a product or service on the internet. Yet if asked, few people could describe exactly what Google does or how it does it. This combination of familiarity and obscurity makes Google the perfect choice for those attempting to scam the unsuspecting, stealing their hard-earned money and/or personal information.

Google does not make robocalls

Google’s reason for being is their search engine. They will not jeopardize that pot of gold by calling people and asking for money. There have been many google calling scams over the years and, undoubtedly, there will be more scams in the future. Do not become a victim.

  • Google does not, ever, place robocalls.
  • Google does not, ever, ask someone to “update your listing on the front page.”
  • Google does not, ever, ask someone to “claim your free website.”
  • Google does not, ever, charge someone to be included in Google Search or Places.

When might Google contact you?

  • You may receive a phone call from Google to verify your business or confirm business details for Google Maps or Google My Business.
  • You may also receive a phone call about Google AdWords, Google My Business, Google Play or other Google products.
  • 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.”
  • Any phone calls from Google should come from a 650 (Mountain View, CA) area code.

See here for information on other types of scams.

From Google’s Report Robocall Scams page:

Robocall scams are automated phone calls using recorded messages that may ask you to press a button to speak to a sales rep. Google doesn’t make these calls, so if it’s not a real person right from the start (and you didn’t request an automated call from us), it’s not Google.

Why Google will never jeopardize the reputation of its search engine, especially for a few bucks

Google has come a long way since 1995, when two Stanford University graduate students, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, were working on a research project. Searching the Internet, as most people now do multiple times a day, was still very new. When the two Google founders were searching for funding, one CEO turned them away, saying users don’t care about search abilities (possibly the worst decision ever made). So, they returned to their garage office and began operations. They did manage to get funding and, in 1998, were recognized by PC Magazine as one of its Top 100 Web Sites and Search Engines for 1998.

How Google makes money

Google is now a multinational, publicly-traded business with reported revenues in June, 2015, of over $17 billion. They make their money from pay-per-click advertising and a host of related businesses, but it’s all connected to the perception people have of the honesty of the search engine. When someone types in a search term such as “plumber in yourtown” or “buy xyz,” eight to twelve listings are displayed.

The search engine’s algorithm picked those listings as the best answers to the search term. The two or three listings at the very top are paid ads; the eight to ten listings underneath are unpaid search results, or “organic.” Companies employ numerous strategies to improve their websites’ rankings.

Google is constantly updating the algorithms that determine how websites are ranked. If people don’t trust the results of Google searches, they will use another search engine, such as Bing or Yahoo. Google will never jeopardize the foundation of their entire empire by calling people, trying to get a few bucks.

The Scams

The “Claim Your Listing Now” Scam

“Hi, this is Sherry, an online business listings associate with Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Our records indicate that your online business listings have not been claimed and it’s urgent we speak with the business owner now. If you do not press one now, you will not be able to claim your listings and your customers will not be able to find your business online.”

If you don’t see “Google” in the caller ID, the call is not from Google. Callers say they are “from Google” or “affiliated with Google,” but are not.

The “Google Lotto” Scam

An email is received stating that you’ve won a Google lottery and needs a few details before sending the prize. A “small fee” may be asked for in order to release the funds.

Do not reply to this email. Google never runs lotteries and did not select any email to be a prize-winner.

The “Google Wallet Vehicle (or Something Else) Purchase” Scam

A cheap car is found online and the seller wants to complete with transaction with Google Wallet “for your protection.” The seller claims to be selling the car so cheaply because of a military transfer, a divorce, moving, etc. There is no car, and Google Wallet is not really being used. An invoice will arrive that looks like Google Wallet, but the seller asks for payment to be sent via Western Union, a bank transfer, or MoneyGram.

A genuine Google Wallet transaction requires the purchaser sign into their Google Account and pay using Google Wallet. If the seller requests the use of Western Union, etc., that is not a Google Wallet transaction.

The “Google Top Placement/SEO” Scam

The caller guarantees top placement in search results for a fee.

Top placement, in either unpaid search results or AdWords, is never guaranteed and cannot be legitimately promised by anyone.

The “Your Google Account Has Been Compromised” Scam

If a text message has been received stating that your Google Account has been hacked or compromised, review your recent activity in “Google Account Security settings.” Do not respond to this message with any personal information. Google will not text anyone and ask them to verify their identify with a return text or phone call.

Do not respond. Instead, forward the message to the SMS spam reporting number, 7726 for most carriers. Review the “Gmail Security Checklist” and consider adding extra security measures to the account by turning on 2-Step Verification.

The “Your Google Business Listing Will Be Deleted” Scam

Calls are received claiming that your Google My Business listing will be deleted unless verification is provided immediately.

These services are now called Google My Business, and Google would not make a phone call asking for immediate verification.

Anyone who has received a phone call and is asking themselves, “why is google calling me?” should just hang up. If you like, and it’s recommended, report the call to Google. A complaint can also be filed with the National Do Not Call Registry.

TL;DR

These are things Google would never do

  • Attempt to charge you for inclusion in Google My Business or Google’s search results pages.
  • Offer to help optimize your website and/or perform SEO services to improve your search engine rankings or online profiles.
  • Ask you for your Google password or verification code.

photo credit: 09-oct-16 via photopin (license)