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Google sues scammers after discovering fake online reviews businesses

Giant technology company Google sued people who they discovered were leaving fake reviews about businesses and services on their online platforms using Google Maps and Business Profiles.

The lawsuit, filed on June 16, 2023, in the Northern District of California in the United States District Court sued the majorly American defendants Ethan QiQi Hu, GMBEye, Rafadigital LLC and Does 1-20 to stop their “complex and misleading scheme to deceive consumers, business owners and Google by unlawfully manipulating Google’s industry-leading business listing services.

According to the lawsuit, over the past two years, the defendants were accused of abusing Google products by creating fake online business listings and bolstering them with fake reviews from people who do not exist. The accused then sold those listings and the enquiries from confused customers who they manage to lure in to other businesses looking to promote their businesses on Google platforms.

The scam works that the defendants create fake business listings and Google reviews; and then sell them to their clients. They were found to be part of a network of over 350 fraudulent business profiles that involve at least 14,000 fake reviews.

Apparently, the accused also scammed small business owners by making unsubstantiated and impossible claims about their ability to guarantee a favorable position in Google’s search results and implying preferential treatment or access with respect to certain Google processes. Among the false adverts Google flagged was where some of the defendants offered clients premium Business Listing verification, others offered verification packages from basic to ultimate at a fee. Some even set up fake businesses to get Google to verify them but they were caught in the act.

Google accused the defendants of breach of contract after initially agreeing to Google’s terms of service by creating fake business profiles, attaching phone numbers to business profiles that are not associated with those businesses, providing false information to Google in connection with Business Profiles, using Business Profiles to generate leads and selling said leads to third parties, failing to comply with Google’s rules for working with third parties and deliberately posting fake reviews on Google services.

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