Last Updated on November 18, 2022
Google Makes KeyMe Kiosks the Largest “Locksmith” in the Country
KeyMe is Listing 1,000s of Fake Locksmith Locations and Google Does Nothing
Google is a high-tech company solving high-tech problems, but once again, they have been beaten by a company that has chosen to mislead consumers by breaking the Google business listing guidelines. The company, KeyMe, has figured out how to fake out Google and exploit Google search results in order to dominate searches for “locksmith” in every major city.
This map shows the KeyMe kiosk locations in just the Phoenix market. These KeyMe Kiosks are automated machines that will copy a general key. However, Google shows every one of those KeyMe locations as locksmith locations (i.e. a locksmith shop that a consumer can walk into to solve a variety of lock and key issues).
Why? Because KeyMe Kiosks are lying to Google and listing their Kiosk locations under the category “locksmith.” But go to any one of those KeyMe “locksmith” addresses, and you will not find a locksmith there. You will not be able to talk to a locksmith about your issue. You cannot hand a real person your lock and get your needs solved. No one will be able to make a key for your toolbox, chest, or other lock needs. You cannot get your remote/key programmed to your car. It’s just a key machine.
There are no locksmith shops and no locksmiths at those locations. KeyMe is trying to crack into the mobile locksmith service space. And as you’ll see below, listing these kiosks as fake locksmith shops gains them an unfair competitive advantage for their mobile services.
There are over 50 of these fake locksmith locations posted by KeyMe in the Phoenix market alone. By recent count, the company has over 2,300 fake locksmith listings in the US, and they have stated their goal of 10,000 kiosks (i.e. fake listings) soon.
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Why Does it Matter?
- When you need a locksmith, you’re going to waste time and have a poor consumer experience.
When you’re searching for a “locksmith near me,” you expect to find a locksmith near you. You did not search “KeyMe near me”. You probably want a real person, a local company to take care of your needs. KeyMe is neither local nor a locksmith. Though they list 1,000s of local phone numbers, every single one of those numbers goes to an out-of-state dispatch center (unless you happen to be in the state the dispatch center is in).
- It cost you money. You are a smart shopper, you know that when you take your lock needs into a locksmith shop, you save money. So you take off the lock, get in your car, and drive to your local KeyMe location, the a.k.a “locksmith” location. What you find is you’ve wasted your time and effort because you went to a fake KeyMe kiosk, not a locksmith. You spent gas and time going to a fake locksmith location. Even if you need a locksmith out at your location, and call KeyMe to send someone, you will pay more for a locksmith than if you hired locally because KeyMe is a middle man, making money only by connecting you with someone that is local.
- They’re taking money out of your local community. Money spent in your local community tends to stay in your local community. To support jobs, schools, streets, etc…Every dollar spend out of state, stays out of state.
- They’re hurting your local businesses. Legitimate locksmiths, that are following Google guidelines for their business listing, are losing calls to these fake listings. Google search listings are returned based on geographical location. The closer a business is to you, the higher they are returned in your search. When you need mobile locksmith service, every search now shows a KeyMe “locksmith” shop right down the street from you. They have captured your call from the local, rule following, locksmith that is really nearest to you.
- Will the service they provide you be honest and true? Possibly, but the company has already misled you by listing thousands of fake addresses for locksmiths. They’ve violated Google listing guidelines. Will they then suddenly become trustworthy and sincere when they arrive to service you? In my opinion, no.
How KeyMe’s Fake Locksmith Address Scam Works
Google, and all phone services search software, triggers off of geography. They figure, if you are searching for a coffee shop, you want a coffee shop that is near your current location. Makes sense right? So if you search, “locksmith near me.” You should in theory, get the closest locksmith shop or service near your existing location.So a decade ago or so, big scam and fraud companies starting to take advantage of this. They created thousands of fake Google listings, all showing addresses, in the search engines.
The idea was that no matter where you were searching from, you’ll get one of these fake locations at the top of your search, and that is the listing that most people choose to click.
By listing thousands of fake businesses on Google, scammers could dominate internet search for practically no cost(i.e. free advertising). These companies then went on to quote super low rates, only to price gouge the customer once they arrived.
After national news exposure, search engines stated to take steps to prohibit the use of fake addresses. To verify a business, Google started mailing post cards with codes to customers to the address on the business listing in order to verify the location was real. This was suppose to prevent the fake business listings like these KeyMe Kiosk “locksmith” listings.
Furthermore, Google’s policy was updated to specifically state:
Service-area businesses that serve customers at their locations—should have one page for the central office or location and a designated service area. Service-area businesses can’t list a “virtual” office unless that office is staffed during business hours.
Google also states in their policies in bold print: Never make false, misleading, or unrealistic claims.
The KeyMe company is intentionally lying to Google about their kiosk locations. They are violating Google’s listing policy in order to dominate Google search results and take business away from local locksmiths that have stores and follow Google guidelines.
We have not been able to determine how the KeyMe locations got around the postcard mailing required to verify these addresses as “Locksmith stores”. The KeyMe kiosks are located within other stores and have no staff on site to receive and verify addresses.
Will Google Fix KeyMe’s Deception?
To Google’s credit, after major news coverage on national and local television shows about the previous fake locksmith listings, Google began efforts to clean up the fake google map locations. They had been making great headway in stopping this sort of behavior. You could report the fake listings and Google would remove them.
However, I know that these new fake listings have been reported to Google from locksmiths across the county. But Google has done nothing.
My research discovered that one of the major investors in KeyMe was White Star Capital. This VC investment firm was co-founded by former Google executive Christian Hernandez Gallardo. He was a member KeyMe’s Board of Directors for nearly five years (leaving in early 2019). Are these ties to Google and Google’s lack of action regarding the fake KeyMe locksmith shops a coincidence?
KeyMe is certainly a key duplication service, they have machines that do just that at every address they list, and if they were listing under the Google category “Key Duplication Service” they’d be on point, but listing as a physical locksmith location is a deception.
Requests to Google to Fix Fake Keyme Locations Have Gone Ignored.
I have reported these fake locksmith locations to Google using two methods.
- Click on a KeyMe location within Google Maps. Look for the suggest and edit link. Click that link and change the classification to “key duplication.” When this is tried, Google ignores the change saying that the information couldn’t be verified. Really? All you need to do is look at the images the KeyMe has supplied in the listing and it’s clear it is not a locksmith shop and no one is on site.
- On a bigger scale, Google allows reporting of a major listing violations by filling out the Google Redressal Complaint Form. Several months have gone by without reponse.
Google seems to be ignoring the problem. Is it because of the previous Google executive that invested in KeyMe?
With enough traction, maybe Google will notice the fake business classification. If you support your local businesses, use one of the above methods to report the fake KeyMe locations. Maybe with enough reports, Google will address it.
Why is KeyMe Now Listing these Fake Locksmith Locations
KeyMe started business as a Phone app. You could take a picture of your key and they would mail you copy. We wrote a security piece on them once. I posed as a jealous boyfriend wanting to make a copy of my girlfriend’s key to get into her house when she wasn’t home. I told them that was my goal, and they were still seemed eager to help me. (Update: I’ve learned that KeyMe has stopped making keys from photos and it’s about time!).
KeyMe then put their efforts into making key machines. Customers could put a copy of their key into a machine for a quick duplicate. Searching “KeyMe near me” would take you one of those Kiosk locations. As would a search for “key copies” or something similar. This is a valid listing, and so far so good.KeyMe placed those machines in Fry’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, and other stores. The machines allow anyone to make a copy of any standard key, even do not duplicate keys (DND). So if you want a copy of your boss/company’s DND key, this machine doesn’t care, it ignores the DND stamp and will make the key.
KeyMe now wants to expand into locksmith services. I believe the are doing this by subcontracting out the work in areas they have kiosks.
After realizing they could manipulate Google’s mapping algorithm by violating Google listing policies, they now list those thousands of kiosks as locksmith shops, not key duplication services. They have manipulated Google to create a major advantage at the expense of local locksmiths.
KeyMe Kiosk Locations Dominates Google with Fake Locksmith Listings
When KeyMe changed their kiosk listings, they started misrepresenting themselves. They violated Google listing policy by changing the KeyMe kiosk locations from key duplication listings to “locksmith” listings.
Overnight KeyMe became the largest locksmith service in the country without having a single locksmith employed by the company or a single locksmith shop that I could verify. They did this by violating Google policies that have been put in place to keep a level playing field in service-based industries.
In Phoenix alone there are over 50 KeyMe locations or “Locksmith Shops.” They show up in Google Maps high on the list of any search for a locksmith, normally in the #1 position, no matter where you are searching from.
Why has Google allowed this? I don’t know. Their efforts were going well and there is a pretty tight review process now for locksmiths to get a location listed in Google Maps, but KeyMe Kiosks have found a way to skip Google’s verificatin, and Google doesn’t seem to have it as a priority to fix right now.
Google Makes A Machine the Largest Locksmith in the US – Google Business Listing Scams
Google has been scammed by phony locksmith listings since they started with business listings.
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