An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Tens of thousands of fake listings are added to Google Maps each month, redirecting users to fraudulent websites selling phony or overpriced services, or are part of some referral scam. Researchers say that 74% of these abusive listings were for local businesses in the U.S. and India, mainly in pockets around certain local hotspots, especially in large metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago, Houston, or Los Angeles. In most cases, the scheme was simple. A customer in need of a locksmith or electrician would search Google Maps for a local company. If he navigated to the website of a fake business or called its number, a call center operator posing as the business’ representative would send over an unaccredited contractor that would charge much more than regular professionals. If a customer’s situation were urgent, the contractor would often charge more than the initial agreed upon price. Researchers said that 40.3% of all the listings for fake companies they found focused on on-call services, such as locksmiths, plumbers, and electricians, and were for customers who were desperate to resolve issues. Further, overall, operators of fake listings managed to hijack 0.5% of Google Maps’ outbound traffic for the studied period.
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