A Horror Story: Check Your Google Local Listings - Don't Let This Happen to You

Linda Buquet

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Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
13,308
competitorimages.jpg


A rather nasty problem surfaced in the Google Business forum. I wanted to share it here so folks are aware. (Excuse the scary title, but it's Halloween week and this is pretty horrific!)

There are lots of reasons to check your live listing as well as your dashboard. Google edits, occasional bugs, user edits and this... Competitor sabotage and customer stealing, by putting their ad and phone # on your listing. (Although hate to call the crappy images above and below ads, but they are.)

Now granted this is a locksmith, so hopefully other main stream businesses would not face this type of competitor sabotage.

BUT I've seen this happen in other industries and there was even a course proudly offered (by a person I won't name) teaching how to steal customers by squatting an ad with phone # via an image on your competitor's listings. (Same concept, still GMB listings, different delivery method.)

So here is the thread at the Google Forum and below it my warning about how a similar but even worse black hat trick is played. Along with research I dug up for Google that surfaced some other profiles doing the same thing.


Trinity Locksmith Wrote:
<a href="https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!category-topic/business/hGF0MuQpG2I">how to stop bacigalupo locksmith from posting his advertising on my pictures profile</a>



competitorimages2.jpg


Trinity Locksmith: "I've reported the issue more times that I can count, and no I cannot delete them because his posting them from the post a picture for this business in google maps. The pics that he posts are not in my albums its so frustrating not to be able to do anything. He did not hack my account he's doing it from the customer interface where you are allowed to post pics for any business that you visit."

The situation above I believe was user uploaded images. That's kinda straight forward.
IT GETS WORSE! Like a good detective I followed the trail, err... Google profile.

Look what I found on the review page of the guy that did the images above:
<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/103609184490972944832/reviews">Felipe Deborbon Reviews - Google+</a> MUST CLICK & SEE WHAT'S INSIDE!. :eek:



Here's a screenshot of just 1 tiny part in case Google removes by the time you see this.
There are pages and pages like this.



competitorimagesbunch.jpg
'


123 Reviews. Almost all are competitive sabotage by advertising on other locksmith's listings.

HERE IS THE TRICKY PART. He leaves a 5 star rating, most often with no review. Just 5 stars. The business owner loves it and does not question it. BUT with the review, he uploads one of these image ads (if you can even call this crap an ad.)

Some of the reviews aren't images. They are text ads in the reviews like:

"1000% SCAMS CALL ONLY TO REAL LOCKSMITH_3052OO I I OO FOR SERVICE"

Here is a single 3 line review. Can't believe this passed the filter.
"_3O5_2OO11OO_EMERGENCY LOCKOUTS 24 HOURS ALL SOUTH FLORIDA IN MINUTES _3O5_2OO11OO_EMERGENCY LOCKOUTS 24 HOURS ALL SOUTH FLORIDA IN MINUTES _3O5_2OO11OO_EMERGENCY LOCKOUTS 24 HOURS ALL SOUTH FLORIDA IN MINUTES"


Now you wouldn't think the review filter would even let reviews like that by. Not with all caps and phone #s. But I guess that's why he formatted the # oddly - to bypass the filters.

You certainly wouldn't think TODAY's review filter would let those caps and that wording fly right? Here is a review he placed on a Condominium listing, just 2 weeks ago.

"LOOK original locks "ALMET" (ORIGINAL GRAND LOCK) CALL BACIGALUPO LOCKSMITH __3O5_2OO I I OO__."

Here are 3 more profiles - same guy. He Posted 51 - 73 more defacing ads per profile:
<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/104204697883103742127/reviews">Ronald Western - Google+</a>
<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/115755549016905360733/reviews">RAUL ZU?IGA - Google+</a>
<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/102177775575948876397/reviews">Westtelly Zurruniag - Google+</a>

Tim Capper, one of our Google Top Contributors escalated the thread above to Google management and I bumped it a couple times to add those additional profiles. I'm sure there are more and I'm sure the very capable Google spam team will be able to track any additional related profiles down easier than I could.

And hopefully outing this very sleazy practice, will give Google the opportunity to plug a few more holes that unscrupulous business owners and marketers use to.

I told Google:

"The guy doing the defacing & competitive sabotage, seriously needs to be banned.

Not just from GMB or Google, but from ever using the Internet again!"
:mad:

So next time you check your client's live listing to be sure the data is correct, peek at the images too. Hopefully this is not a widespread practice. But I've seen it a few times before and I bet at least 100 businesses and consultants (with who knows how many clients each), took that course teaching how to do something very similar with image ads on competitor's listings. And you know how black hat tricks like this can spread. Like the plague!

Have you ever had any horror stories like this
with client reviews or client images?

EDITED TO ADD: Yikes! See new reply in post #3 below. And new example Post #13

<meta property="og:type" content="article"><meta property="og:title" content=""><meta property="og:description" content="">
<meta property="og:image" content="http://www.localsearchforum.com/attachments/google-local-hall-shame/2653d1446051029t-horror-story-check-your-google-local-listings-dont-let-happen-you-competitorimages4.jpg">





 

cdawg2610

Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2013
Messages
118
WOW - I've seen this before, but that's a whole new level of insane with that. And shady with the 5 star reviews, because you are right, that's not going to flag anyone.

We've seen a couple of these, but it's more one off for us - I've seen a couple of disgruntled employees who were let go will tag a business with bad photos (them flipping off the camera, other offensive ones) but we always just go in and been able to report it as offensive. This is a whole new level of shady.
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
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13,308
Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

CHECK THIS! New reply at the Google Forum:

daymig1229

"Linda do you know any white hats that can take this monster of the net? Apparently I have a college that had the same problem with bacigalupo years ago and he told me that this guy told him that he was a "google expert tech and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him from doing what his doing"
 

Scott Rawlins

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Joined
Nov 14, 2012
Messages
1,040
All I can say is "WOW". It doesn't get much more blatant than that. How can G let these "reviews" go through?! Disappointing to say the least.
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
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But on the flip side Scott...

It's crap like this that makes Google have to tighten the filter so much that innocent, honest reviews don't get through either.

So I know for them it's always a tricky balance between thwarting the bad guys, yet trying not to throw too many babies out with the bath water.
 

Phil Rozek

Local Search Expert
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
1,558
Wow. Makes you wonder what kind of customer would be dumb enough to call that guy....

By the way, please let me know if you run across any equally bogus Yelp reviews.
 

JoyHawkins

Administrator
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
3,135
Love the title of the post Linda. I'm always amazed at the idiots that spam the world. I would hope that any user seeing this would be so turned off by the slimy tactic that they would warn people never to do business with that company.

The phone #s in the reviews slipped by because he didn't use the right characters (those aren't zeros) and he used underscores instead of dashes.

Looks like the guy behind it is a serial online spammer - Ripoff Report | Peter Vasigalupo Complaint Review Miami, Florida: 1167988
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
Messages
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Ya I agree Joy.

What I don't get is... those images are SOOOOO crappy, I can't even believe he thinks anyone would be compelled to call him.

They are so bad, that I wondered for a minute if the opposite was going on. That someone did all these to get HIM in trouble and make HIM look bad.

But I only wondered that for a second. No one would go to this extent and do that many images and reviews. I'm sure there are more. My carpal made me stop after the 4th profile.

Thanks for the ripoff report link. I was not physically able to do any more research beyond GMB.
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
Messages
13,308
Tim Capper found more profiles. And Map Maker edits. Here is one post from Tim

Found some more profiles, which I have added to escalation:

https://plus.google.com/111189306873788844371/reviews
https://plus.google.com/115867491926405532216/reviews
https://plus.google.com/116809533589794498485/reviews
https://plus.google.com/113615908162460177331/reviews
https://plus.google.com/101172273114592012058/reviews

It should not be too difficult for G to create a spam filter that uses a sequence of numbers, letters and characters in a review

_3O5_2OO11OO_
_3O5_2OO _I I OO..
_ 3O5 _ 2OO I I OO
:::3O5::2OO11OO:
3O5*2OO11OO
= 3O5-2OO I I OO
 

Linda Buquet

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Messages
13,308
OMG This should seriously be illegal!

competitorimages4.jpg


The sleaze bag's images all over AAA Miami Locksmith's page.

That was just a few. There are more. Check this: https://plus.google.com/+Aaaml/photos

AND GET THIS:

This guy has been reported for this crap since 2011 and is STILL getting away with it!

Thanks to Mike Blumenthal for archiving the old Google forum.

Why Is This Locksmith Spammer Still Up? Multiple reports by Dan Austin 2011

<meta property="og:type" content="article"><meta property="og:title" content=""><meta property="og:description" content="">
<meta property="og:image" content="http://www.localsearchforum.com/attachments/google-local-hall-shame/2653d1446051029t-horror-story-check-your-google-local-listings-dont-let-happen-you-competitorimages4.jpg">

 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
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Everything in that last post was posted in the Google forum thread that was escalated.
I forgot to add the link to that photos page where I got the image. There's more. Added link above.

Google needs to respond in that thread.
And they need to do something!
 

Owen Kane

Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2015
Messages
9
This is a mind opener, (Thansk For The Alert) some people just have no morals, yes there should/must be a way to ban these people.

So does anyone know why Google continues to allow anyone to post a picture on a claimed and verified GMB listing. Seems a terribly flawed practice... and at the least, Google should implement a feature to allow a business owner the right to remove any picture that does not represent his business in good taste, without having to involve Google. Many are just ugly!

Reviews I understand pictures I do not! Reviews ia a topic for another day

That said yes I agree... business owners need to check their GMB listings as part of a regular monthly/weekly checkup to ensure content is current, correct and no outrageouse items are posted.. be it pictures, reviews, comments or mentions. Sdaly this is not the case.
 

Linda Buquet

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Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
13,308
So does anyone know why Google continues to allow anyone to post a picture on a claimed and verified GMB listing.
I think because they think big picture and what is a benefit to searchers and the majority of businesses.

Think on the PLUS and more common side of why people would upload GREAT pics to a business page. "Pic of my awesome dinner", "my beautiful hotel room", "the great new smile Dr. Jones gave me!"

So as usual - a few spammy bad apples could ruin it for everyone.

But I agree it should be easier for business owners to get bad images removed!

Since we have not heard anything on this from Google yet, I escalated again and pointed out all the new info.
 

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