Google Business Listing At The Center Of A Scam

MIAMI — The Better Business Bureau says it's received complaints about an apparent new scam. 

One woman says she used Google to find a highly-recommended repairman, but she said scammers showed up at her door instead. 

Courtney Pearson’s washing machine gave her an error message earlier this year. Her friend recommended she call Al’s Guaranteed Appliance Repair. She said he recognized the problem while they were on the phone. “He actually talked me through things and we fixed it that way.”

When the washer broke eight months later, she called Al again.

“I typed ‘Al’s Guaranteed Appliance Repair’ into Google and right there was his information and the number.”

Pearson said no one answered her calls, but she received a text message a few seconds later. The person on the other end asked if she needed appliance help. She said the man went by 'Alex' and he agreed to give her a free estimate the next day. 

Alex and another man, Rafael, showed up right on time.

“They started bringing in shop vacs and buckets and I thought, ‘okay, these two guys have it handled.’ ” An hour later, the men told her they had replaced a valve and wrote a receipt for $420. Pearson said she was shocked at the price but felt she had to pay. She wrote a check out to Rafael, the men left, and she put in a load of laundry.

Pearson said the washing machine did not work so she called them immediately.

“I said guys, please come back, there is no water. They had done absolutely nothing to my machine but within an hour, they had gone and cashed the check and it posted to my account.”

They never came back, and eventually blocked her number.

She then looked up Al's Guaranteed Appliance Repair 

That’s when she looked up Al’s Guaranteed Appliance Repair again. This time, she called the number listed on Yelp. “He had no idea what I was talking about,” said Pearson. “It started to dawn on me the guys that came out here had no affiliation.”

The real Al — Al de la Cerda — said someone else put their number on his Google listing. “I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs, not getting calls, and someone changed the number on my site.”

It's not hart to do because Google Business listings give an option to "suggest an edit," which lets almost anyone change the address, phone number or other information. 

CBS reached out to Rafael, who said he didn’t edit the Google listing, but indicated that it may have been done by a telemarketing company he hired. He eventually gave Courtney back her $420.

The real Al repaired her washing machine and then changed his Google listing back to his number, but he’s worried about how many other Courtneys are out there.

A Google spokesperson wouldn’t address this case directly but said in a statement there are safeguards in place in the “Google My Business” feature, which allows merchants to be notified through email when edits are suggested.

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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