Google is already an integral part of our daily lives. People rely on its services to get things done. Companies want to ensure that their brand stays at the top of the search results and improve their online presence to create a Google Business Profile account. This helps them meet customers where they are – online.
But sometimes, businesses create fake accounts or simply don’t update information. So how exactly can you identify fake Google Business profiles, and what should be your courses of action?
Google recently announced that 7% of local searches result from fraudulent user behavior. The company also found that more than 40% of local businesses are missing out on potential new leads because they don’t have a verified profile on Google My Business.
What Are Fake Google Business Profiles?
A fake profile is when an identity isn’t really being used. Fake profiles appear to be real because they’re designed to make users think they are interacting with something legitimate. Hackers often create these profiles. They may also create profiles pretending to be other people. Fake profiles come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Some are quite good-looking, while others seem sketchy. But all of these can lead unsuspecting visitors to have negative experiences while browsing your website.
Who Uses Fake Profiles?
A fake identity is easy to create. You only need a phone number, email address, and a few stolen and modified images, and you’re good to go. People who build their Google Business Profiles in one night aren’t real. Companies also use them and marketing agencies because they want to research what we do online. It’s not illegal because we give them full access to our public information on social media platforms.
Marketing agencies use social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., to research what people do online. Hackers try to close gaps in their victims’ privacy by using social engineering methods. They attempt to get into the mind of their targets and gain more personal information about them. By gaining access to private information, they can sell or share it with others.
Social engineering methods are being used to bypass any psychological barriers that the target might detect in the hacker’s profile. This includes gender, ethnicity, appearance, job, education level, etc.
How to Identify Fake Google Business Profiles
Asking whether or not someone is a person who may be trying to impersonate another user isn’t really a great idea. For example, an attacker changing profile photos is an obvious sign that they attempt to change their identity. But other things may indicate this as well.
Just Recently Created
Most people joined Facebook around 2004-2005. We know this because we see plenty of new profiles created after 2007. So, if you’re looking at someone’s profile today, chances are they haven’t been on Facebook long.
Profile Picture Doesn’t Match the Bio
The reviewer’s name and avatar give away the authenticity of the bad review. Red flags include profiles with few pictures and avatars associated with fake reviews. Fake reviewers may use fake accounts to post fraudulent reviews. A profile picture could be fake if it doesn’t match the rest of the website. The user might also try to make themselves appear more attractive by taking an attractive photo.
Profile pictures should not look like photographs of models. If someone posts a photo that doesn’t seem to match their occupation or profession, this may hint that something is suspicious about them. Also, if someone uploads a picture that appears pixelated, it may be because they took the photo from the Internet and not because it was taken professionally.
However, some suspicious reviewers try to deceive customers via stock photos. You can also check if a reviewer uses a real photo by using a reverse image search online.
The Bio Section Is Incomplete
Users who write biographies should describe what they do and provide a link to a website describing what they do. Fake business profiles tend to be short and vague descriptions with very few details. This makes them easier to spot by people looking for fake content. Generic statements make up most of the profile, and rarely does the person provides any specific or detailed information.
Fake profiles should contain a minimum of relevant content, while genuine profiles usually include details about their volunteer work. Genuine profiles do not write anything about themselves in their summary statements. Only fake profiles try to pretend that they are real by using the first person singular (I).
Scammers often use generic titles to cover up their identity. In this case, the manager used a fake name and email address.
Bots often use nicknames and usernames because they’re easy to remember and easier to type than real names. In addition, users may use them as an alias.
When searching for a username, you should be careful about usernames with numbers or weird names because these usernames might be fake ones.
A hacker could use the name of an actor or celebrity and then write a biography about them using fake information. Using a fake bio, people may believe you’re an expert on the topic and provide you with valuable information. This trick might also help you appear more credible when searching for jobs.
The Number of Followers
Followers/following indicate whether the personal profile is fake or not. If there are very few followers or many fake followers, it is likely a fake account.
The followers and following of a profile most likely indicate that the profile is false. For example, the followers and following of the profile indicate false because many followers share the same profile as the original poster, and few or none follow anybody else. Also, the people following the profile seem to know each other, indicating that the profile is probably false.
Suspiciously timed negative reviews might indicate fakes. They could start appearing regularly, or there could be a sudden surge of bad reviews.
Business reviews should never be written during night hours or late at night when people are sleeping. Instead, they should be posted at that single time when there are more eyes to see them. This allows the company to learn about what users do and doesn’t do. This can help you improve the user experience.
Very Few Connections
People who try to add you without knowing you are probably trying to do something bad.
There are many ways to verify a business’s legitimacy. A company should be aware of its competition’s reputation and be careful about its competitors’ activities. If the customer has no other negative reviews of this type, there’s a higher than usual chance that the review is genuine.
An inappropriate review should be checked thoroughly by looking at other businesses’ legitimate review. The reviewer should always check the company’s competitors before reviewing them. A business owner who only talks about themselves will most likely try to deceive people.
A true profile will have a good mixture of men and women. There should be at least some men who aren’t wearing sunglasses, and there shouldn’t be any fake business profile pictures.
Checking out mutual friends from a link request is an effective way to verify that a person isn’t using a fake account.
When you see an email from somebody famous, be suspicious. You may actually receive an actual message from the person, but instead of sending you a personal message, the scammers impersonate them. In addition, scam artists often use fake names, such as “Bill Gates.”
It would help if you always investigated before you accept.
A profile that adds you but won’t interact with you is likely a fake. When someone you’ve added as a friend ignores your messages, chances are, this person is attempting to get info from you without giving anything back. Ignore them.
The reviewer submitted several questionable reviews using different accounts but did not leave negative feedback. This indicates that this reviewer may be a fake or is not an active participant on the site.
Genuine reviews can be faked by an entire group of people writing Google reviews on the same day as if they’re different users. As a result, reviewers may post false information about this book, including negative or positive five-star reviews.
Inactive accounts often use this as an excuse for their lack of activity. Bots create some user accounts, but some might be used as traps to lure unsuspecting victims into fraudulent activity like spamming and phishing scams.
Writes Spammy Comments
False reviews will usually include things that have nothing to do with online reviews, like inappropriate content. Google reviews should be true and honest.
Poor Grammar Usage and Spelling
Fake profiles have fraudulent review patterns such as spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. These errors may detract from the credibility of the Google Business Profile.
How to Deal with Fake Google Business Profile
Here are some means of dealing with bogus Google Business Profiles.
You can report inappropriate or fake reviews using the Google Maps or Google Search option after undergoing a review process. Bogus reviews removed from either service won’t show up anymore.
Flagging a fake Google review containing fraudulent content is the first step toward letting Google take down false online reviews. Think about it as sending a signal saying, ‘Hey, something isn’t right here.’
Before pulling the trigger, check Google’s review guidelines to see if the review violates any rules. Flag fake reviews for local businesses by clicking on the flag icon in the upper right corner of the review. You’ll be suggested to a page where you can select why you’re flagging the review.
Locate the flag or three horizontal dots next to a review, click the flag or three dots, and flag the review as inappropriate. Then report a policy violation after flagging the review as appropriate. You will be sent to a page where you can see what violations were found and how many people reported them.
A business owner may flag existing positive reviews to report them as spam. This action does not affect the policy-violating content of the review itself. Most people have better luck getting Google reviews removed by contacting Google directly. However, some people have been successful in using the flagging system. Patience is key when trying to get Google reviews removed.
Check If Profile Is Verified
Fake profiles should be stopped by following verified ones, but this may prove ineffective, especially if you don’t know who the fake accounts belong to. One sign is a blue check beside their names.
File a Case
If you feel you’ve been defamed or slandered by someone writing a blog post about your company, you may file a lawsuit. You could sue even though the real person who wrote the online review wasn’t paid to write the article. Your lawyer will help you decide whether you want to pursue this option. However, such action should be considered as your last resort.
If you think a fake profile is pretending to be your real customer, you must check for signs that such a profile is indeed fake. There are ways to do so, as mentioned in this article. Do you think you need help with your digital marketing campaigns and local SEO? Give us a call, and our professional team will gladly assist you.