Skip to main content

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Kelly Hodgkins
Kelly's been writing online for ten years, working at Gizmodo, TUAW, and BGR among others. Living near the White Mountains of…
You can now share Google Search results straight from the app
Google Search

Google is making it a little easier to share search results. How? Well, with a share button, of course. The new share button is available in the Google app beta for Android, so its reach is a little limited right now. That said, the feature will likely make its way to the standard app on both Android and iOS in the near future.

This isn't the first way to share a Google Search result, but it may be the easiest. In the past, you could simply copy and paste the URL, or use LMGTFY (Let me Google that for you), which was usually a little more of a sarcastic way to share a Google search result. Now, however, you don't necessarily have to use either of those methods.

Read more
New Google Search feature will let you see life-size animals up close with AR
Google search

Google Search rolled out a new feature that allows owners of augmented reality-enabled smartphones to go on a safari in the comfort of their own living room.

At Google's I/O conference in May,  Google’s vice president for camera and augmented reality products Aparna Chennapragada demonstrated how Google Search may use AR to layer 3D models on top of the real world. This will allow people to look at the 3D object from every angle, and place it in the location of their choice.

Read more
Get 15% off this FlexiSpot electronic standing desk at Amazon
A white FlexiSpot Home Office Electric Height Adjustable Desk in an office.

There are lots of benefits to using a standing desk, and if you think you need one, you should check out the standing desk deals that are available today. Here's an attractive option from Amazon -- the Flexispot electronic standing desk for only $238, following a 15% discount on its original price of $280. This is a limited-time offer though, so there's a real risk of missing out on the $42 in savings if you take too long to complete your purchase. If you think this is the standing desk for you, we recommend buying it right now.

Why you should buy the Flexispot electronic standing desk
The Flexispot electronic standing desk can adjust its height to anywhere between 28 inches and 47.6 inches through its motor lift mechanism that you can access through the two-button controller at the corner of the table. It stays pretty quiet as it moves up or down, and you can go through the full range of the standing desk in less than 10 seconds. Moving from a sitting position to a standing position that quickly will make sure that you maximize the benefits of the Flexispot electronic standing desk, including being able to stretch your spine every once in a while over the course of the day.

Read more