The internet and free tools like Google Search, Maps and YouTube help small businesses build an online presence, engage with customers and grow their operations. Unfortunately, scammers often work to game the system by creating fake reviews and listings for monetary gain, which harms businesses and consumers. Today we’re filing a consumer protection lawsuit to help put an end to these types of malicious schemes.
Our lawsuit targets a bad actor who perpetrated a coordinated campaign to deceive consumers and business owners by fraudulently attempting to manipulate our services for small businesses. As our lawsuit shows, this bad actor posted more than 350 fraudulent Business Profiles and tried to bolster them with more than 14,000 fake reviews. It then attempted to sell information about consumers who had been lured in through such false claims. While we detected and removed this deceptive content, we’re taking proactive legal action to stop this bad actor from scamming other platforms and to protect our users.
Customers trust Google to provide authoritative and reliable results. But that trust is lost if they spend money based on fake reviews. This has real-world implications: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cited a survey where consumers reported wasting $125 on average each year to inaccurate reviews.
We work to stay ahead of scammers and protect small businesses by closely monitoring 24/7 for fraudulent content on our products, using a combination of people and technology. In 2022, we protected more than 185,000 businesses from further abuse after detecting suspicious activity and abuse attempts. We also stopped 20 million attempts to create fake Business Profiles in 2022, and continue to invest in new technologies and processes to keep information on our products helpful and reliable.
The FTC and other regulators have prioritized holding bad actors responsible for deceiving consumers with fake reviews and misleading endorsements. We are sharing our insights with them to tackle fake reviews and other deceptive endorsements globally. We’ll continue to prioritize trust and safety for both businesses and consumers through proactive litigation and investing in technology to ensure information across our platforms is reliable.