Google Fake Business Listings: A Key Duplication Kiosk Becomes the Top Locksmith
Google is suppose to be smart. They are a high-tech company solving high-tech problems, but once again, they have been beaten by an unscrupulous company. One company, KeyMe has figured out Googles weakness and is exploiting it to their full advantage and the consumer’s detriment.
Google thinks every marker on this small map is a locksmith shop. Why? Because they are all listed under the category “locksmith” with a business location shown. But go to one, and you will find they are fake listings. There is no locksmith shop at any of these locations. There is just a key copying machine. There is no locksmith that can program your car key, fix your lock, make a key for your lock, sell you door hardware, duplicate a barrel key, provide high security locks or any of the hundreds of services real locksmith shops perform.
There are over 50 fake locksmith business listings of this one company in the Phoenix market alone. Furthermore, the company states that they will have 10,000 fake locksmith listings (i.e. Kiosks) in the US soon.
Why is This Against Google Policy?
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 a decade ago or so big scam and fraud companies starting to take advantage of this. They created thousands of fake business listings, all with addresses, in the search engines. The idea was that no matter where you were searching from, you get one of these fake locations at the top of your search, and that is the listing that most people choose to click.
So by listing thousands of fake businesses on Google, they could dominate internet search for practically no expense (i.e. free advertising).
Search engines have since caught on, and prohibit the use of fake addresses. To verify a business Google started mailing post cards with codes to customers. This was suppose to prevent the fake business listings.
Furthermore, Google’s policy now specifically states:
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 clearly states in their policies in bold print: Never make false, misleading, or unrealistic claims.
KeyMe intentionally and misleadingly violates Googling listing policy in order to dominate Google search results and take business away from local, legitimate, honest locksmith companies (that follow Google guidelines).
I have no idea how KeyMe got around the postcard mailing to verify these addresses as Locksmith locations. The kiosks are within other stores and have no staff on site to receive and verify the address.
Why Fake Google Listings Matter to You
- You get a poor consumer experience.
- When you call a locksmith at a given address, you expect a locksmith at that address. You want a local company to take care of your needs. KeyMe is neither local nor have a locksmith at that address. Though they list 1,000s of local phone numbers, every single one of them goes to an out-of-state dispatch center (unless you happen to be in the state the dispatch center is in).
- 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 “locksmith.” What you find is you’ve wasted your time and effort because you went to a fake business location. There is no locksmith at any of these thousands of fake business listings.
- They take 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 locksmiths. Legitimate locksmiths, that are following Google rules for their business listing, are loosing calls to these fake listings. Google listings are geographical based. When every search shows a KeyMe because that KeyMe is thought to be the closest “locksmith” every call they get is one less call that a real local, rule following locksmith company owner is going to miss.
- Will they treat you honestly? For legal reasons I can’t say that they won’t. But I can tell you, they’ve already lied to you by creating the fake business listings! They told you they had a locksmith shop in a location where there is not one. Why would they then suddenly become trustworthy and sincere?
Will Google Fix This Attempt to Trick You?
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.
However, for at least the past three months, I know that this issue has been reported to Google from locksmiths across the county. But nothing has been done.
KeyMe is certainly a key duplication service, with machines that do just that at every address they list, but they are not a locksmith shop.
Requests to Google to fix the issue have gone ignored.
You can report these fake business locations using one of two methods. Maybe with enough reports, Google will address it.
- Click on a KeyMe business within Google Maps. Look for the suggest and edit link. Click that link and change the classification to “key duplication.”
- On a bigger scale, you can report a major issue by filling out the Google Redressal Complaint Form.
Neither has worked thus far, but with enough traction, maybe Google will notice the fake business classification.
Who is KeyMe and Why Are They Now Lying to You?
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. After I told them as much, they were still happy to assist. See what they told me here! Update: I’ve recently learned that KeyMe has stopped making keys from photos and it’s about time!
KeyMe moved into making key machines. Customers could put a copy of their key into a machine for a quick duplicate. They 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 will make it.
KeyMe now wishes to expand into the locksmith business. And realizing they can manipulate Google’s mapping algorithm have a major advantage to remove local competition.
KeyMe Locksmith Dominates Google with Fake Listings
In the beginning, KeyMe listed their key machines as a “Key Duplication Service” within Google maps. This is allowed. Listing an address with their key machines allowed anyone looking for a key copy to go to the location and get a key copy made. This is legit, and they have nearly 10,000 kiosks across the united states.
But when they changed their strategy and started misrepresenting themselves. They violated Google listing policy by changing all of those key duplication listings to “locksmith” listings.
So KeyMe, overnight, became the largest locksmith service in the country without having a single locksmith shop by violating Google policies that have been put in place to keep a level playing field.
In Phoenix alone there are over 50 KeyMe Locksmith “Shops.” They show up in Google Maps high on list of any search for a locksmith 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 has found a way to scam Google’s system and Google doesn’t seem to have it as a priority right now.
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