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|“||Nearly every locksmith that appears on Google Maps is a fake business that redirects to a call center ... that dispatches a scammy, distant, barely trained locksmith who'll come and charge you 5-10 times more than you were quoted.||”|
|— Cory Doctorow, Superb investigative report on the fake locksmith scam (BoingBoing, 2016)|
|“||For me, it was always like I was looking at a five-alarm fire. To [Google], it was smoldering.||”|
|— Dan Austin, quoted in Fake Online Locksmiths May Be Out to Pick Your Pocket, Too. (The New York Times, 2016)|
The locksmith scam is a multi-faceted scam, targeting people who have been locked out of cars or buildings. Side-effects of the scam include damage to the reputations, and to the ability to advertise, of uninvolved, legitimate locksmiths.
Such scams may involve:
- Lead generation, designed to confuse potential customers into believing that the scammer is a legitimate, but low-priced, locksmith:
- Disinterest in the customer's right to access the vehicle or building to which the call-out relates; for example, failing to ask the customer for ID or proof of ownership.
In the U.K. in 2010, a locksmith scammer was successfully prosecuted.
In the U.S. in 2014, a locksmith based in Virginia sued Google, Yellowbook (Hibu), and Ziplocal, under numerous laws, requesting that those companies "remove fraudulent locksmith listings from their search results". This, too, was unsuccessful, due to the companies' immunity under the Communications Decency Act.
In the U.S. in 2017-2018, a group of 14 locksmiths filed a lawsuit against Google, Yahoo, and Bing, alleging that these search engines allowed spam listings to drown out legitimate, organic search results.
Google claims to have removed billions of advertisements that violated its policies, and to have improved its verification systems to combat listings fraud. However, although Google now requires people advertising locksmith services in the US or Canada to complete its "Advanced Verification" process, it does not do so in other markets. Also, Google has reportedly resisted removing fraudulent listings.
- Adversarial information retrieval
- Criticism of Google
- Hijacked journal
- Passing off
- Sybil attack
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- Segal, David. "Lead Generation Sites Pose Challenge to Google - The Haggler".
- "When You Call A Locksmith, Will A Con Man Answer?".
- Sun, Deedee (30 March 2018). "Seattle woman warns of potential new locksmith scam".
- Fletcher/ABC7, Lisa. "Fake map points on search engines lead you straight to scammers".
- "Palm Beach police arrest Broward man for allegedly running copycat locksmith business".
- Staff, News. "BBB Scam of the Week: Locksmith Scam".
- "Yellow Pages removes fraudulent 'cheap locksmith' listings using addresses of unrelated businesses - CBC News".
- "Israeli company cons Chicago residents". 30 August 2005.
- "Bloomberg - Are you a robot?". www.businessweek.com.
- "Five reasons why companies should be worried about click fraud".
- Smith, Allan (11 October 2016). "3 Uncommon Scams Anyone Could Fall Prey To".
- Siciliano, Robert (2 January 2014). "12 Ways to avoid Locksmith scams".
- ""I Fell For The Locksmith Scam"". 31 October 2008.
- Greenbaum, Dave. "Know the Warning Signs of a Locksmith Scamming You".
- Gardella, Adriana. "A Business Owner Blames Search Engines for Lost Sales".
- "Google Maps' spam problem presents genuine security issues / Boing Boing". boingboing.net.
- Mariam, web team. "BBC - Watchdog: Reoffending rogue finally under lock and key..."
- "Locksmith Sues Google, Others Claiming Spam Local Listings Illegal - Marketing Land". 27 October 2014.
- "Virginia Business Owner Sues Google, Others for $8.4 million".
- "Locksmiths try again to sue Google over fake local listings - Marketing Land". 3 March 2017.
- "Google Fights Fraud by Cracking Down on Plumbers and Locksmiths - Search Engine Journal". 4 October 2016.
- "Google cracks down on dodgy tech support ads".
- Tung, Liam. "Google to tech-support scammers: We're about to get even tougher on your ads - ZDNet".
- "Advanced Verification policies - Google Ads Help". support.google.com.