As your business starts to grow online and you get higher up in the search engine rankings, your phone will start ringing more often and your sales should start to go up. All of this is great and is a true testament to your hard work and dedication to your business! However, while the phone is ringing more often, it won’t all be from customers. You’ll get more solicitation calls as well. Some of them are relatively harmless, if a bit bothersome. But others are downright predatory and attempt to get your money through deception. How can you tell if these calls are real or are a scam to get money out of you and your business? Below, Virtual Market Advantage will take a look at a major type of predatory solicitation call your business may start getting after ranking higher on the search engines – the Google Phone Scam.
How the Google Phone Scam Works
Unfortunately this scam is very common for businesses that start to rank highly on the search engines. The people who perform this scam can see that your business is concerned with SEO, and thus more likely to spend some money to improve your marketing. In a way, it’s flattering: other people have noticed you and seen that you're a successful, sensible online businessperson!
The call comes from a self-proclaimed “Google Specialist,” who claims that they’ve found some problems with your SEO. They will probably offer you first page rankings for you business for the low cost of $200 a month. That’s a really good price for so bold a claim. As with many scams, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
It’s important to know that there‘s no way to 100% guarantee you a first page spot on a Google search. There are way too many factors at play in modern SEO, from ever-changing search algorithms to rising competition to changes in the keywords that potential customers are using. The scammer might promise that they’ll register your keywords to organically boost your rankings - for a cost. The truth is that they cannot register keywords, as this is not something Google or any other search engine service offers. What you can do is run ads with Adwords and bid on top keywords to beat out others wanting to use those keywords too. However, this is different than “getting pure organic results by registering keywords.” Keep an ear out for this red flag.
What they are basically selling you is a directory listing that you can go and get yourself for free. They charge a set up fee plus a monthly payment to run your webpage on the directory. While these directories are good for search rankings, since some of them are well-established and have been around for a while, there's no guarantee when you pay that monthly fee that you’ll land on the front page of Google. Directories are just a small part of what should be a much larger SEO campaign if you want to see real results.
Getting a Call from a Real Google Support Person
Many scammers work by pretending to come from a place of authority. How can you be sure you are speaking with a real person at Google if they claim that this is the case on the phone? Here are a few ways you can tell if you are talking to the real deal:
Google does not make unsolicited sales calls to businesses. You could possibly receive an automated call to your business as a service to its users. This call would be for non-sales tasks such as making reservations or confirming business hours.
Google will make calls from a designated set of numbers, and if the business wishes to opt out of these calls, they can do so at any time. If you receive such a call, it would have a (650) area code.
You may receive calls from a Google operator for the purpose of development, customer service, or support related to your Google AdWords or Google Play accounts.
What to Do if You Receive a Google Scam Call
The existence of scammers who will use a big name like Google to try and get your money for no real benefit is unfortunate, and there’s nothing you can do that would stop it completely. However, there are a few steps you can take to help prevent it in the future:
Report all scam calls to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can also go to donotcall.gov to submit a formal complaint.
Hang up the phone! If you receive an unwanted call from someone saying that they’re from Google, you can hang up at any time. There is no need to push any buttons or make any comments, as this could lead to more unwanted calls.
Contact Google. To help track down the scammers, you can go to Google and contact them directly via the web form. Be ready to have the following information ready when you fill out the form:
- Caller company and contact info.
- Emails or documentation sent following the initial call.
- Any additional information you may have about the call.
Scams that Use Legitimate Businesses as a Front
There’s another type of phone scam that’s even more insidious. Some scammers pretend to work for a legitimate business but sell fake services. This happened to a company called Point Break Media. If you look them up in Google, they rank great in SEO. Unfortunately, that left them as a target for scammers who saw this as prime opportunity to cold call businesses and sell fake packages as if they worked for PBM, because they knew the business ranked well. If a potential customer were to check out the website, they would find a legitimate, successful business and would be more likely to buy into what the scammers were selling. The company eventually changed their main page to reflect that they are not in fact the company that's calling and scamming businesses for money by selling a fake SEO package. Sometimes success has unforeseen consequences.
All in all, the Google phone scam is a situation that’s easy to avoid once you’re aware of the problem. If you want any type of online marketing or SEO package, you should do your own research and call those companies yourself. Don’t trust people who auto call and try to sell you something that sounds too good to be true. Never hesitate to just hang up and do the research yourself. When money and your business are concerned, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Speaking of trust, if you want to learn more about developing credibility for your business on the Internet, check out VMA’s blog on domain trust flow here!