Attn: Local Merchants Getting Those Stupid “Google” Automated Calls

There are enough announcements and warnings about these that I initially thought it might be redundant to post one of my own, but these robocalls seem to have returned with a vengeance. In the past six months nine of my clients have reported them, with five having gotten multiple calls. So yeah, we’re cracking our knuckles and discussing this.

Many small businesses across the country report regularly getting calls from telemarketers claiming to be from Google. This scam really started taking off back in 2011, around the time when Google Local was taking off. In the last several months it seems to have exploded all over again, possibly due to Google’s recent changes with local listings.

These calls are automated and ask you to press a button to speak with a representative, usually to “claim” or “verify” your “Google Listing.” While the “representatives” claim to be representing or associating with Google, they are actually from shady companies that are selling unwanted verification services, sleazy marketing schemes or just trying to procure sensitive information from you.

These companies try to hedge themselves by claiming to act as “representatives” of Google in the context of being signed up for Google Local or Adwords as opposed to officially representing Google. Scam artists clearly don’t due much in the way of legal diligence because these calls are still illegal in the United States under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Nonetheless, business owners sometimes come to the reasonable conclusion that Google itself is spamming them and tying up their telephone lines during busy hours. Google has naturally taken exception to this and has started cracking down on this a few years ago, including filing lawsuits against guilty parties responsible for this behavior. Google also recently launched a Safety Center page, giving small business owners clear directives on how best to handle, report, and prevent a variety of robocall scams.

Google’s instructions on how to deal with this particular type of robocall are brief but thorough. If you get a call like this, immediately hang up; even pressing a button to speak to a representative or staying on the line puts you at risk for getting more of these calls. If you keep getting bombarded with these calls Google also advises business owners to file formal complaints with the Do Not Call registry or the FCC if it gets particularly bad.

Google also has its own webform that you can use to help assist Google in tracking down these calls and potentially stopping them as well. I realize that filling out a contact form seems fruitless and is probably item number 524 on a business owner’s to do list, but it helps. This information does make a difference; few people think to report automated calls, and knowing where these calls are going can often help Google piece together enough information to find culprits.

Remember that Google will only call about your local listing if you’ve specifically requested to claim it and will never ask for money. Try to think of it as a Smokey campaign: “Only you can prevent robocallers from calling busy restaurants during the lunch hour.”