Google Files Lawsuit Over Fake Business Profiles and Fake Reviews

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google searchAgroup of defendants with an alleged common owner have brought a whole new meaning to Search Engine Optimization. According to a lawsuit filed by Google, one Ethan Qiqi Hu set up more than 350 fraudulent business profiles and bolstered them with more than 14,000 fake reviews. Although this case has no tie to the financial services industry, it may be worth knowing how the scheme was carried out.

Defendants did not limit themselves to a niche. According to the complaint, they pretended to be repair shops, chiropractors, cleaning services, spas, painters, and more. They got around the verification step by skipping the mailed postcard and consenting to video chat inspections, in which defendants relied on movie-like sets and props to convince Google’s staff they were at whatever business in question. Once established, its alleged they relied on thousands of fake reviews from Bangladesh and Vietnam and then used the business profiles to either generate and sell leads or to sell the profiles themselves for a profit. Google said that the scheme undermines people’s faith in their products.

“In 2022, we protected more than 185,000 businesses from further abuse after detecting suspicious activity and abuse attempts,” Google said. “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.”

Google said that they took this legal action “against a bad actor for deceiving and scamming consumers.” It added that it hopes the lawsuit “builds awareness that we will not sit idly by as bad actors misuse our products.”

There’s a message here that one can’t rely on Google business profiles alone to authenticate legitimacy (looking at you underwriting) just as one may not be able to rely heavily on Google Maps.

Last modified: June 21, 2023

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