Google has taken legal action to combat scammers who abuse Google Maps and Business Profiles to promote fake businesses and post fraudulent reviews. In a recent blog post, Google revealed that “bad actors” had created over 350 fraudulent Business Profiles and supported them with more than 14,000 fake reviews.
The lawsuit, which can be found in the court document, explains the details of Google’s legal action. The defendants in the lawsuit include Ethan QiQi Hu, GMBEye, Rafadigital, LLC, and Does 1–20.
Google’s objective with the lawsuit is to put an end to the “complex and misleading scheme” employed by these scammers, which deceive consumers, business owners, and Google by manipulating Google’s business listing services. The court document states that the defendants, led primarily by Ethan Qiqi Hu, have created fictitious online listings for non-existent businesses and bolstered them with fake reviews from non-existent individuals. They offer these listings, along with inquiries from unsuspecting consumers, to those seeking to promote their businesses on Google platforms. Furthermore, the defendants make false claims about their ability to guarantee favorable search results and imply preferential treatment from Google.
“Over the past two years, Defendants—led primarily by a single individual, Ethan Qiqi Hu—have abused Google products to create fake online listings for businesses that do not exist, and to bolster them with fake reviews from people who do not exist. Defendants sell these listings, and the inquiries from confused consumers who are lured in by them, to individuals and entities looking to promote their businesses on Google platforms. Defendants deceive these small business owners too, making unsubstantiated and impossible claims about their ability to guarantee a favorable position in Google’s search results and implying preferential treatment or access with respect to certain Google processes.”
The court document provides extensive evidence, including screenshots, detailing the alleged methods used by the defendants in their fraudulent activities.
This is not the first time Google has taken legal action against scammers. In the past, Google has utilized various tactics, including lawsuits, to combat fraud in both local and web search.
Why is this important? This lawsuit may serve as a deterrent for scammers who have not yet faced legal consequences from Google, potentially leading to a reduction in spam and scams on Google Maps and Google Local. It is reassuring that Google is taking proactive measures, beyond merely removing spam and fake profiles, to target these deceptive practices.
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