Jim Fisher

If you own a business, you should claim your Google business listing. If you have a listing, you need to monitor it or else. Hang out with me while I share my story.

People no longer use a phonebook to look up a business phone number, they simply Google it. Even if you’ve never stepped foot on the internet, your business is likely already listed, complete with an address and phone number. Once you “claim” your business, you can add items such as store hours, “buttons” for people to call, and descriptions of services offered. Claiming your business is pretty easy. You simply Google your business’ name, click on “Claim this Business” and follow the instructions to verify your ownership. All of this is 100% free.

I receive 2 or 3 calls every day from “Google” warning that my Google business listing is out of date, or that my business wasn’t even listed. Sometimes they are robocalls, sometimes they are dirty humans. They are ALL scam phone calls. They typically offer to claim your business for you for a fee. They will tell you that your listing is about to be taken down. They will make all sorts of claims to scare you into giving up some money or giving up your current Google business listing username and password. They may then hold your listing for ransom. They lie. Google will never, ever call you for anything.

I usually just hang up on them but if I’m in a particularly ornery mood (which is often these days), I might play along with them to see if there’s anything new with their scam. Once or twice--okay maybe a few times over the years--I have blown off some steam by admonishing them about perpetrating scams on people. I got particularly nasty with one of them during the height of this pandemic and may have used a few bad words.

Not long after that, my phone calls to my office came to a crawl. We usually receive perhaps 15-20 calls from strangers per day. For a few weeks, I was only getting one or two. I assumed people were just shutting in and not venturing out so I didn’t think much of it. However, one of my employees was suspicious and took a look at my Google business listing. Turns out my business was marked, “PERMANENTLY CLOSED.”

My techie readers will wonder how this could possibly happen. This is not supposed to be possible as my listing is protected from unauthorized changes by a strong username, password, and 2-factor authentication. But it was somehow “hacked” regardless. I have some theories but the bottom line is that you should not take your Google listing for granted. You need to claim yours before someone else does, and you need to regularly check the listing to make sure you haven’t ticked off the wrong person. And from now on, just hang up on the scammers.

Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Florence. Reach him at www.ExcelAL.com