Last Thursday, our Customer Care Department received a call from a client who had been contacted by a company named Futurology. The Futurology representative had told him that his Google Places Listing (the listing that we manage for him), was not “VALIDATED”. Understandably, the client who was paying us good money to help him optimize and promote his listing was quite alarmed. The rep then proceeded to tell him that they would request a NEW PIN from Google and that once he received it he should call them and provide the PIN so that they could “manage his listing”. Our Customer Care agent called the toll-free number for Futurology where the representative that answered the phone told her that since the “Manage This Listing” link was still present that the listing had not been “validated”. This is, of course, 100% untrue.
Listings can be reclaimed any number of times as long as you are in possession of the correct PIN which expires after each use. If a new PIN is generated and entered into Google Places you are able to then gain control of the listing. Had the client not called us and followed the advice of this rep then Futurology would have gained complete control of the listing to do with whatever they wanted. With a little bit of digging we were able to uncover that our client was not the only person that had received this type of call. Here they are on RipOffReport.com: http://www.ripoffreport.com/futurology/internet-fraud/internet-internet-5c022.htm. Be aware that once you provide your Google PIN to any company, especially one that you aren’t currently doing business with, you are placing your Google Places listing in serious jeopardy.
Is a new wave of Google Places fraud on the horizon? It is very easy to imagine how this could be used to blackmail/scam the business owners after they claim their listings.
We have also encountered clients who have received actual PIN numbers from Google along with a URL where they could navigate to on the internet and enter the “Google PIN”, once done they arrive at an “unlock screen” where they are asked to input their credit card information to validate their Google Places listing. Again, since the client has already provided their PIN in the previous form, whether or not they elect to input their credit card information is basically a moot point because the website already has gained access to the Google Places listing in the previous screen. They are then free to with whatever they wish with the listing including ransom it back to the rightful owner.
The bottom line here is that with the increased prominence of Google Places and the clear presence of fraud, business owners need to be as careful with their Places listings as they would with their corporate credit card number.