Study: Millions of business listings on Google Maps are fake

According to a new study by the Wall Street Journal, millions of businesses that appear in searches using Google Maps are actually fake.

The investigation found that Google Maps was flooded with scammers impersonating real businesses, in some cases rerouting customers to competitors. In one search of plumbers in New York City, 13 of the top 20 search results listed false addresses. And in many cases, Google makes money off of the scammers, as businesses, legitimate or not, pay for prime listings on Google Maps.

“Large sets of data that are publicly submitted or anything, that are hard to monitor and hard to verify and vet, you can’t do it with tech, you have to do it with manpower,” said Henry Casey, a senior writer for Tom’s Guide.

In a blog post, Google said it is aggressively fighting fake business profiles.

“Even though fake business profiles are a small percentage of the overall business profiles on Google, local business scammers have been a thorn in the internet’s side for over a decade,” the blog said. “We take these issues very seriously and have been using a wide array of techniques and approaches to limit abuse on our platforms.”

The company says it's made it easier for users to flag suspicious business profiles, but the revelation is another black eye for the tech industry when it comes to the dissemination of fake information.

“Trust is going to continue to be a top issue with Silicon Valley,” Casey said.

Google says that it took down over three million fake business profiles last year and disabled over 150,000 user accounts that were fund to be abusive, but they acknowledge there’s still a lot of work to be done.