Fake locksmiths manipulate Google search results in bait-and-switch scam

top tech stories 05 12 2017 google logo hq headquarters sign name
mikewaters/123rf
If you are in an emergency situation and need a locksmith, you may want to call a friend for a recommendation instead of using Google to find a qualified service person. According to a recent New York Times article, Google search results are being gamed by fake locksmithing services whose primary goal is to scam a customer into paying as much as possible.

Unbeknownst to most people, many of the locksmiths that dominate Google search results are lead generator operations with call centers in different states and even different countries. These lead gens know how to trick Google’s SEO in order to rank high in the search results and manipulate Google Maps to appear as a legitimate storefront. Behind the scenes, though, the company has no brick and mortar store and maintains a group of poorly trained subcontractors who are instructed to get as much money from the customer as possible. A large number of these contractors are brought in from Israel with the promise of steady work.

Lead gens operate using a simple bait-and-switch tactic. When you call a lead gen listing with an emergency, your details are collected and forwarded to a subcontractor who is dispatched to your home or car. Once there, the $30 quote balloons into a much higher fee because of some unexpected and often fabricated obstacle such as the procedure being “much harder to perform” or the “lock needing to be replaced.” Most people pay because they are frustrated with their situation and just want to get into their house or car right away. Others don’t realize they are being fleeced because the overcharges are relatively small.

These scams began popping up in the early 2000’s and now have become a flourishing business thanks to Google. “I’m not exaggerating when I say these guys have people in every large and midsize city in the United States,” said Assistant United States Attorney John Ware when speaking to the New York Times.

For its part, Google says it is working hard to find and remove these scam operations when they arise, but the company has so far remained one step behind these swindlers who know how to work the system and fly under Google’s radar. Unfortunately, it is legitimate locksmiths who are paying the price because their listings are grouped with the fake ones, making it difficult for customers to find a qualified service.

Mobile

Hey Google, let’s order out: Food delivery comes to Search, Maps, and Assistant

If you love your takeout, then Google's new online food ordering system is sure to bring a smile to your lips. You can now order takeout from Google Search results, Google Maps, or by using Google Assistant and pick your delivery service.
Home Theater

What is Android TV? Google’s smart TV software fully explained

Google's Android TV might not be a household name yet, but with growing support from brands like Sony, it will be soon. But what exactly is Android TV, how do you get it, and what are the benefits? We explain it all.
Mobile

Get your gaming on the go with the 25 best Android games

The Google Play Store is loaded with both terrific and terrible gaming titles. We vetted the store to bring you some of the best Android games available, whether you're into puzzles, shooters, racing games, or something else entirely.
Computing

Yes, Google tracks and collects your online purchases through Gmail. But why?

Google has been tracking your purchase history and while the company says that the tracking is part of an effort to help you keep track of your purchases, there are indications that there might be other, less clear motives for doing so.
Deals

Best Memorial Day smart mattress sales from Sleep Number, Beautyrest, and more

Memorial Day is one of the best holidays when it comes to online sales. If you're looking for a new mattress, a smart mattress may be right for you. Check out some of the best Memorial Day smart mattress sales of the year to take your smart…
Smart Home

Amazon Memorial Day sale: $210 off Arlo Pro wireless security camera kit

Weatherproof and wireless, the Arlo Pro security camera gives you the freedom to monitor any area or room inside or outside your home. Amazon dropped the price of the Arlo Pro HD security camera kit that includes everything you need.
Smart Home

Amazon Memorial Day deal drops price of August Smart Lock for homes to just $99

Smart lock are a strong start to any smart home security system. Now, in Amazon’s Memorial Day deal, score an August Smart Lock for the low price of just $99, down from $150. Lock in this deal now and start your summer off smart.
Smart Home

Before you sell your Google Home Mini, here's how to factory reset it

If you’re thinking about swapping out Google's entry-level smart speaker, you can get a few bucks in cash or trade-in value out of your device. You’ll need to wipe your device first though. Here's how to factory reset a Google Home…
Deals

The best Amazon Prime Day 2019 deals: Everything you need to know

Amazon Prime Day 2019 is still a few months off, but it's never too early to start preparing. We've been taking a look at the best discounts from previous Prime Days to give you our predictions of what to expect this year.
Smart Home

Walmart offers sweet deals on Owlet Smart Sock 2 baby monitor

Parenting is an amazing experience, but wondering how newborns and infants are at night can be nerve-wracking. Baby monitors can ease some of the stress by letting you check on the baby without entering the room.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Nest and Ecobee smart thermostats for Memorial Day

If you’re tired of constantly adjusting your thermostat and you want a smarter (not to mention more eco-friendly) way to keep cool this spring and summer, then these Nest and Ecobee smart thermostat deals are just what the doctor ordered.
Smart Home

The best stand mixers of 2019, including models at every price range

Making dough is hard work, but the right stand mixer can make free up some time (and your hands). Here are our current favorites, from the likes of KitchenAid, Sunbeam, and several other manufacturers.
Smart Home

Amazon slices the price on Instant Pot DUO Plus 60 for this Memorial Day sale

Amazon dropped the price on the Instant Pot DUO Plus 60 6-quart, 9-in-1 multi-use cooker for this year's Memorial Day Sale. The right size for 4-to-6 people, the 6-quart DUO Plus 60 is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, and more.
Deals

Roomba and Shark Ion robot vacuum cleaners get big price cuts for Memorial Day

Your Memorial Day BBQ is all planned out, but what about the post-party cleanup? If you act quickly enough you might be able to get some robot help in time for the cleanup thanks to a few good sales on robot vacuums this weekend.