Almost five years since the New York Times profiled the issue with Google’s local results and locksmiths, the newspaper published a fresh story around the issue this weekend.
The story is called Fake Online Locksmiths May Be Out to Pick Your Pocket, Too. It goes through how local locksmiths are locked out of the local results because of all the fake, call-center-based locksmiths that are hacked into the Google local results.
When a searcher begins looking for a local locksmith, instead their phone call often goes to a call center, which then may send “poorly trained subcontractors” to charge you a lot more money than you were quoted on the phone. The subcontractor arrives on the scene and then often will require the person locked out of their car or house to pay three or four times what was quoted on the phone.
The goal of lead gens is to wrest as much money as possible from every customer, according to lawsuits. The typical approach is for a phone representative to offer an estimate in the range of $35 to $90. On site, the subcontractor demands three or four times that sum, often claiming that the work was more complicated than expected. Most consumers simply blanch and pay up, in part because they are eager to get into their homes or cars.
Where are these locksmiths from? The New York Times uncovered companies, often not based in the local area, that set up fake locations within Google Maps to trick the algorithm into thinking they are a locally based company. These companies can literally be found in all metro areas, but all phone calls typically go to a single call center that’s not located in the metro region.
A Google spokesman told the New York Times that the company worked hard to check bad actors and quickly removed listings that violate its policies.
The truth is, not much has changed in terms of this issue in the local results at Google in the past five years. It is almost impossible for Google to manually remove all these fake listings, and as they do remove them, several more pop up every day. The algorithm simply doesn’t work in this case.
Check out the very detailed article on the problem, who is causing it, and how Google is unable to prevent it at the New York Times.