Fake Business Listing Scams in India 2020

Fake Business Listing Scams in India 2020

Fake Business Listing Scams in India:

First let’s understand “What is a Google My Business page”?

Google explains Google My Business pages as: “Its’ a free and easy to use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google including Search and Maps. It helps customers to find business and helps businessmen to tell their story”. 

In short, it’s a free business listing like Yellow Pages phone books were, but online and still being used today. 

Benefits of Google My Business?

The benefits of Google My Business pages are:

Helps manage information: It helps businessmen to manage the information that Google users find when they search for business, products or services. 

Enables interact with customers: It enables to read and respond to reviews from the customers, and post photos to show what business does. 

Helps understand and expand presence: It provides insights to businessmen on how customers searched for their businesses, and where those customers are coming from. It also provides other information like how many people called the business directly from the phone number displayed on the local search results in search and maps. 

Because of the aforesaid benefits, Google My Business page have been created by millions of organizations and businessmen across the globe.

Issues With Google My Business Pages?

Issue 1: Fake Business Listings?
Fake business listing are generally created for following ends:

  • By competitor: To tarnish image of an institution/ individual 
  • By fraudster: To defraud citizens 

By creating fake business listings on Google, conmen misguide customers. 

Warning signs of fake listings include: 

  • Using stock photos 
  • Having spelling mistakes 
  • Physical location doesn't exist and 
  • Wrong phone number display etc. 

To lend credibility to a fake business listing page, fraudsters give fake reviews, claiming it to be an excellent and genuine service provider. 

Issue 2: No Proper Verification:

Anyone can create a fake Google My Business listing page on Google without it being verified, and it will not be removed without people flagging it. 

No doubt, a Google My Business listing performs much better when it’s verified, but none the less, it can still defraud many people, especially with fake reviews. 

Issue 3: Fraudsters Change the Contact Information Maliciously:

Spammers and fraudsters replace legitimate information with fake ones, to defraud people. 

Google states that – “Merchants who manage their business listing info through Google My Business (which is free to use), are notified via email when edits are suggested”. 

Sample: Edit Option on a Google My Business Page

Fraudsters with malicious intent suggest edits on Google My Business page and merchant may fail to notice such edits, due to:

  • Deleted linked mail ID  
  • Mistakenly skipped the email notification 
  • Deliberately ignored the email notification 
  • Others: No longer having interest in the business anymore etc. 

Thus, fraudsters are able to replace true contact details with fake ones which are in their control. The updated details are then used to de-fraud gullible people. 

How Fraud Takes Place?

Overwhelming majority of these frauds take place by:

  • Creating a fake or non – existent, fake Google My Business page
  • Replacing genuine contact information with fraudster’s information 

In the former case, the victim calls the contact displayed in the Google My Business page, to avail it’s goods and services. The victim then, ends up paying for non – existent services. 

In later, case you call on fraudster’s number. After taking you into confidence, the fraudster may ask to share sensitive information or to perform certain tasks, including: 

  • Sharing Credit card details
  • Sharing UPI PIN or OTP details 
  • Scanning QR Code 
  • Downloading screen recorder apps like Any Desk  

Once you share the sensitive information or perform activities as suggested, the fraudster gains necessary details to de-fraud you – by making unauthorized bank transactions. 
The thug then vanishes. He may stop responding, block your number or even abuse you etc. 

REAL LIFE EXAMPLES:

Call to make dinner booking at Mumbai eatery proves costly for woman, duped of Rs 85,000: An employee at the Juhu branch of Shiv Sagar restaurant said they were aware that a fake phone number had been listed in the restaurant’s contact details online …..
URL: https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/call-to-make-dinner-booking-at-mumbai-eatery-proves-costly-for-woman-duped-of-rs-85000-6107203/

'Google search fraud': Woman loses Rs 1 lakh to fake customer phone number: A woman from East Delhi’s Seemapuri region lost Rs 1 lakh after she fell for an ongoing ‘Google search fraud’ ….
URL: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/gadgets-news/google-search-fraud-woman-loses-rs-1-lakh-to-fake-customer-care-phone-number/articleshow/67148388.cms

The above examples, amplify that the threats are not only theoretical, but in real life people are getting defrauded. Consequently, you must remain cautious. 

What to Do?
If you find a listing on Google My Business that violates Google's guidelines, then you can report it via the Business Redressal Complaint Form, ULR: https://support.google.com/business/contact/business_redressal_form

Also, following are suggested, to avoid being victims of such frauds:

  1. Do not believe the contact details on a Google My Business page blindly: To be sure, if possible, visit the physical address listed on the page. If the location doesn’t exist on ground, most probably it’s a fraud. 
  2. Do not share any sensitive information: Like card details, OTP, UPI PIN etc. No genuine business will ever ask for it. 
  3. Don’t scan QR codes: Scanning a QR code risky, as there is no way of reading the information contained inside it, before exposing the device to the unsuspecting payload.
  4. Don’t install unknown apps: For example, Any Desk, Team Viewer etc. 
  5. Follow best cyber practices: Including being suspicious, following need to know basis in real life, not installing apps outside play store, remembering if anything is too good to be true, it probably is etc. 

What if You Become Victim of Such Fraud:

In case, you already have become victim, you should:
Step 1: The complainant/ victim should lodge a complaint with the nearest Police Station or Cyber Cell. Following documents should be submitted along with the complaint:

  • Self attested, Government ID proof of the complainant
  • Screen Shots of the SMS which reflects the unauthorized transaction details (received on the victim's registered mobile number)
  • A detailed application describing the whole incident i.e., how the caller obtained the private information like card details and OTP etc.
  • Name of relevant Google My Business Page
  • Name of any suspected webpage or application used by the victim
  • Phone numbers of the fraudster (if available) i.e., Whatsapp, IMO, WeChat, Skype, email etc.
  • Updated bank statement reflecting the unauthorized transactions
  • Any other relevant detail

The chats, fraudulent mails, voice recordings, phone messages etc. should be retained in the “Original Device” as such. This is important to enable adduce them as evidence in the Court of Law. Once, the contents from original device are deleted, they lose their sanctity (even though present in other devices, as forwarded materials). Hence, care must be taken not to delete the original incriminating evidences. 

Ideally, an FIR should be lodged (U/S 154 Cr.P.C), but if police resists get a DDR (Daily Diary Register) entry made and receive a stamped copy of the proof of submission of the complaint. Now-a-days several state police allows lodging similar complaint via mobile application or web based interfaces too.

The whole idea is to lend weight and credibility to the complaint you shall finally make to your bank, with the use of such FIR/ DDR entry.

Step 2: Submit a similar complaint to the nearest bank branch and the RBI branch. The complaint to RBI branch is primarily meant to pressurize the bank to deal with the case swiftly and strictly as per the procedure prescribed by RBI.

RBI Bank branches: The RBI branches pan India can be seen using this link - https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/Regionaloffices.aspx
Care must be taken to ensure you notify the bank within three working days of receiving the communication from the bank regarding the unauthorized transaction, to enjoy zero customer liability.  

Step 3: Stay in contact with bank officials, seeking refund as per RBI guidelines. In case of delay, seek reasons for the same.  

Learn the complete process for money refund in online fraud cases, here: https://cyber-cops.com/blog/sop-for-money-refund-in-online-fraud-cases

Conclusion:
In digital world, you must always remain vigilant and cautious. It takes only one mistake to compromise your device or to get de-frauded.