Beware of the “Google” Swindlers

Google conAn increasing number of my clients and associates have reported cold calls from individuals purporting to work for Google. The callers typically offer to place the company’s website at the top of search results. The cost for this service varies, but it’s typically around $150 per month.

These calls are not necessarily to large multi-national corporations. In fact, most appear to target mid-sized companies and sole traders. Bizarrely, the callers insist on leaving a telephone number – not an email or any other form of Internet communication address.

Of course, it’s a con. The callers are simply selling AdWords adverts; they will spend some money on an online campaign and keep a large proportion of the monthly subscription for themselves. They could even use highly-specific keywords and only target the client’s immediate area to ensure AdWords costs are kept to a minimum.

Most legitimate SEO and marketing companies provide AdWords assistance, but the practice of masquerading as Google makes the offer appear more trustworthy, legitimate and cost-effective. At best, the callers are trading under false pretences. At worst, it’s fraud.

Remember:

  1. Google does not sell good positions in their search engine: search results would be worthless if they did. They do offer sponsored links through their AdWords system, but be wary if the caller fails to mention it.
  2. The caller should be able to answer basic questions about the service they offer, e.g. What keywords will be targeted? Will the search result appear locally or globally? Who should I make payment to?
  3. If a Google “employee” contacts you, they should be able to provide an internal email address – not a @gmail or @googlemail account.

Unfortunately, the Internet has more than it’s fair share of criminals and hustlers. Helping your clients avoid the swindlers is another service you should offer.

Have you been approached by Google cold-callers? Did you smell a swindler or were they actually legitimate?

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  • Gareth

    These cold callers are a bane to most legitimate web professionals. We run a web service for financial advisers in the UK, and quite a few have been called by, or fallen for their scams. If their lucky, i get them off those tracks and pointing in the right direction, but we had one client who was scammed of £500 +

    If only there was a way to stop it…

  • http://www.clearwind.nl peach

    nice blog post but the question in the end is a bit silly.
    If someone believed they received a legitimate call from google they probably changed their mind after reading your post.

  • Tarh

    It’s a symptom of the ridiculous rule that all blog posts MUST end with a question OR ELSE!!!

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    Yes, all blog posts end with a question to encourage feedback.

    But, anyway, the main reason I asked is because there are Internet rumors about Google really having a cold-calling telesales team for AdWords. It doesn’t sound very Google-like to me, but perhaps they only do it in certain countries?

  • krdr

    I had similar experience. I got mail from googlemail.com domain. Some guy (Matt) informs me that my domain on .net is available on .com. He wrote that now, as domain is free, I can buy it from any registrant, but he friendly suggested me two registrants.

    My domain was “stolen” 4 years ago. Registration passed and it took half an hour to be bought by someone else.

  • Tarh

    The problem with ending every single blog post with a question (and it must be Sitepoint policy because all the bloggers do it) is that it usually breaks the tone of the article, and has become a cliche. As mostly opinion pieces, it would be nice to see at least a few posts end with a firm statement. You might be surprised how much feedback a strong closing statement can receive.
     
    My guess about the internet rumors would be that it’s an indication that more people are falling for this scam. :-P

  • alexweber

    Good job calling this out and (hopefully) informing people to avoid the further propagation of this kind of “activity” (read: scam).

    But really, after all is said and done, I bet those who fall for it are the same people that are “victims” of other internet scams such as lottery winning emails, spyware, etc.

    And frankly, it serves them right. I’m not saying people should be totally paranoid but come on, a little less naivety please… it’s not like the internet is new and not like internet scams are new either… when will people learn?
    *sigh*
    (PS – my bad if this sounded harsh but I’m just sick of how silly people can be sometimes… last week the most popular magazine in Brazil had a front-page article about internet scams and how more and more people are falling for them and I thought to myself, “wow, this is STILL a problem? hasn’t anyone learnt anything in the past decade?”)

    -Alex

  • alexweber

    (comments can end with questions too) ;)

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    My guess about the internet rumors would be that it’s an indication that more people are falling for this scam.

    I’m inclined to agree, but Google is a business and cold-calling is a frequently-used marketing practice.

    Do you or anyone you know work in a Google sales call centre???!

  • http://www.dangrossman.info Dan Grossman

    I wish Google had a call center making calls.

    Then maybe they would’ve given me a call when someone somehow added my AdWords account to their My Client Center and spent $14,000 on ads in two days.

    Google didn’t see anything suspicious about that at all.

  • http://www.SitePoint.com Matt Mickiewicz

    I got a (legitimate) cold call from Google’s AdSense team, shortly after Google bought Urchin (now Google Analytics)…

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    It does appear that Google cold calls larger or more well-known companies, although I’d be surprised if they targeted SMEs. Scams and fraudsters are rife on the net, so you should always double-check callers credentials and fully understand the products they are selling before handing over any money.

    As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Aidy

    I was seriously thinking of submitting an article about this myself..

    I had one client that was ripped off to the tune of £800. I already had adwords set up for him as well! I could have done so much for that money!

    As soon as I set up a website for anybody, I tell them to give any cold callers my number and to speak to me. I’ve had some great conversations ;-)

  • ClueBeforePost

    @Tara, Peach: The question is asking if you were called by some claiming to be from Google, and if you believed them. IE, “did you fall for it at the time?”, regardless of what you now think.

  • Just Me

    Watch our of localadlink.com They are rated F by the BBB and are a MLM is no real search engine exposure.

  • swanseajack

    This is an interesting blog which seems to have gone off track.

    We are a small business (Clyne Farm Centre – great place to come and stay and do activities in Wales!) and are inundated with these callers. I have an interest in PCs and web design but my staff are normal office staff who are computer literate.

    They used to ask me if I wanted to take a call “It”s Google on the line”. The few that I have spoken with are very persuasive, don’t want to take no for an answer and I usually have to hang up to get rid of them. My staff have now learned to fend them off like other cold callers (so much for the Telephone and Fax Preference for blocking cold callers)

    What are Google doing about it? Like all mega companies they seem impossible to contact. I’ve been through their “contact us” section and got a reply thanking me for the comment and not guaranteeing that they would look at it – how arrogant.

    The point I want to make is that this is not like the email Nigerian and lottery scams where greed is the driver. These are highly persuasive salespeople who are targetting the web unsavvy not the anoraks. These are the vulnerable people who may well “Sign up to Google” thinking they are doing something good for their organisation.