Wow, yes this is really happening across many industries. Businesses are marked permanently closed, hours and other vital business data are changed without notification. In our particular niche, drug treatment, our clients rely heavily on phone call traffic for sales. Having a listing on Google Maps is one of the first things any treatment center should do. This powerful and free service allows people searching for addiction help in your area to see your facility in the local search results. Through working extensively with Addiction Treatment clients we have seen this phone number hijacking all too often. This problem was recently highlighted in an article on behavioral.net.
How Does This Happen?
The problem is rooted in the fact that Google is very good a crowd-sourcing its maps data. This means that ANYONE with a Google account can “Suggest an Edit” to the listing. Furthermore, Google is likely to accept this edit. Google uses real humans to check many of the edits. In the case of phone number changes, Google will often have someone (usually an outsourced contractor) call the phone number to verify it is indeed the phone number of the business. This sounds pretty reliable, but in the case of addiction treatment facilities many call centers simply answer with a generic greeting such as, “Addiction treatment, how may I help you?”. This is often enough for the layperson checking the phone number, who may not have experience or expertise and may not even be from the U.S. to confirm the change as accurate and accept it.
Then BOOM your facility’s Google Maps phone number is directing YOUR clients to an unethical call center and who knows what facility. This hurts you and the individual who is in a vulnerable, stressed state.
Take Preventative Measures
Through our experience, we have been able to successfully combat this spam tactic for our clients and want to share our methods to help combat this dirty trick. Since we have implemented these simple steps we have had zero incidents of our clients’ phone listings being changed.
- Claim every unique location for your business at https://www.google.com/business/. This is completely free and only takes a few minutes. Make sure you keep an eye on the mail over the next couple of weeks for your PIN so you can complete the verification process.
- Once you claim your listing(s) update all of the information as completely as possible. Add photos, social media links, website, hours etc.
- Download and use the Google My Business App. This will allow you to receive alerts on your mobile device of any changes or activity for your claimed and verified business location(s). You can also directly respond to customer reviews using the app.
- Ensure that the data in your business listing is also on your website and matches exactly. We usually put the facility name, phone number, and address right in the footer of every page. This simple and essential step is what protects you. This way if a change is suggested, the person verifying the change will look at your website and usually will not approve it if the change does not match what is on your website.
By being proactive and following these simple tips you can protect yourself from spammers hijacking your Google Maps phone number.