Late yesterday afternoon, a client of ours called us, asking for some insight into a phone call they had just received at their business. A woman named Lisa had called, claiming that she was "Google's problem solver," and that she was addressing an "open ticket about ad placement."
So basically, the caller was indicating that there was a problem with our client’s pay-per-click advertising on Google, and that she was calling to assist the business with this problem. Here’s the problem: Our client hadn’t attempted to set up any sort of PPC ads on Google. In short…
Even without hearing the details from the client, it was immediately obvious that the call wasn’t actually from Google.
For starters, Google will never, ever call you out of the blue. It is possible to schedule calls with Google regarding Google My Business and AdWords issues. However, business owners have to initiate these phone calls by going through Google’s online support system, providing their phone number and email address, and requesting the call. And the turnaround is usually very short, only a few minutes. If you get a real, legitimate phone call from Google, you’re going to be expecting it.
Secondly, the vague way in which the caller identified herself as “Google’s problem solver” is suspicious. Google’s support staff are very good about identifying what branded service they’re supporting. You should expect something more along the lines of, “Hello, this is Angela from Google AdWords. Did you request a support call?” They will quickly get to the point.
Lastly, because our client was away from their desk and the call was received by an assistant, the caller left a phone number for the client to call back. This really isn’t Google’s modus operandi. There is a phone number at which you can set up a call with Google’s “AdWords Specialists” at 1-855-991-4186. But that’s pretty much it. Google’s staff pretty much lives in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, and they do everything they can to obfuscate their direct contact information. This is why you have to request phone calls from their support staff.
Had our client called back, what likely would have happened is that “Angela” would have explained that there was a problem that the client was using to pay for their non-existent advertising, and that she needed to confirm payment details. Thankfully, our client was suspicious and called us. Many people would have gone ahead and read their business credit card info out to the caller, because hey, everyone trusts Google with every other detail of their lives.
And then in a few days, you end up with a few thousand dollars in fraudulent charges.
Unfortunately, Google phone scams are nothing new. More than five years ago, people were reporting fake phone calls from Google Local (now Google My Business) support staff that were trying to sell fraudulent services. There are many variations on this scam, and it’s likely not going away anytime soon.
There are many different flavors of Google phone scams out there, and there will likely be a new one tomorrow. But here are some of the more popular ones that have popped up in the last few years.
As I said, the above list isn’t all-inclusive. Odds are that there will be a new scam tomorrow. But as long as you’re cautious and do everything to protect yourself, you’ll be fine. Just remember: Google will not call you unless you initiate contact first.