Last updated on June 7th, 2023 at 04:01 pm

A Warning for Brewery, Winery, Distillery, and Restaurant Owners

Google My Business / Google Business Listings is an essential tool for all business owners, including those in the food and beverage industry. It allows customers to find your business on Google and provides important information such as your hours of operation, address, and contact details. However, scammers have found a way to exploit the lack of understanding around this product and have mobilized to deceive business owners into giving away sensitive information and to pay unnecessary sums for unskilled work, promising unattainable outcomes.

If you own a brewery, winery, distillery, or restaurant, you have probably very recently received a call — or in our case, a daily onslaught of calls — from an automated voice attendant claiming to represent Google. They offer to help you verify your business listing for a fee. Unfortunately, these calls are completely fake and are actually very likely an attempt to scam you out of your credit card information and/or gain access to your website.

The scam usually works like this: you receive a call from someone claiming to be from Google. They tell you that they have noticed some errors on your business listing and offer to help you fix them. Or they try to convince you that Google has alerted their agency to the fact that your business isn’t placing well for voice search (which again, isn’t a thing). They then ask you for your credit card information to verify your account and make the necessary changes on your business listing and your business website. Once they have your credit card information, they can use it to make fraudulent charges or steal your identity.

It’s essential to remember that Google will never call you to verify your business listing.

Never. Google is literally too big to care and there are any number of legitimate SEOs and Google’s own free tools out there who serve this function and/or who can fill this void. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from Google or working in conjunction with them, it’s almost certainly a scam. If you’re unsure, you can always hang up and call Google’s official customer support line to verify the legitimacy of the call.

The consequences of falling prey to these scams can be severe for small businesses. These fake verification calls can harm your business’s reputation by providing incorrect information or negative reviews, which can turn away potential customers and hurt your bottom line. Additionally, if scammers obtain your credit card information, they can make fraudulent charges or steal your identity, causing even more harm to your business and personal finances.

More than just one flavor of the Google Business Listing scam

In addition to these fake verification calls, there are also other Google-related scams to be aware of. One common scam involves companies claiming to be able to boost your business’s voice search ranking on Google’s Voice Search Platform (which isn’t a thing, mind you — it quite literally doesn’t exist as a platform — there’s only “search”). Just today in fact, a very convincing man named Calvin from a company called KMS who told us he could hand us over to his IT guy who we would get along very well with, and that individual in IT could tell us what to do via screen share.

Working with these companies you run this risk of falling prey to unethical tactics like fake reviews or keyword stuffing, which can actually harm your business’s reputation in the long run. Brewery, winery, distillery, and restaurant owners should be particularly cautious about these scams, as they can significantly harm both online and brick-and-mortar business in a time when they can least afford to. Discernably fake reviews or information that Google can detect as intending to game search results can turn away potential customers and hurt your bottom line. So it’s essential to educate yourself and your employees about how to spot and avoid these scams.

Let’s talk about taking precautions. Firstly, always verify that the caller is legitimate before giving out any sensitive information. Google will never call you, nor would they ask for your credit card information over the phone. Secondly, educate your employees/partners/etc about the different permutations of these scams and have a general protocol in place for dealing with unsolicited calls or emails for people trying to sell your business professional services. Finally, encourage your customers to leave honest reviews and to report any fake reviews that they come across.

Steps to take

  • Ask for a full company name, DBAs, etc.
  • Ask for a switchboard phone number
  • Ask for their official company web address
  • Ask for a way of contacting the head of sales
  • Ask what happens after sales — who is in charge of your account, what the process will be
  • Evaluate their site and look for a page that outlines their process…
  • …If they happen to have either, take note of where you’re assuming the entirety of the risk and carefully assess whether the outcomes that are being pledged are specific, realistic, and attainable
  • If any of this doesn’t make sense, is too difficult to understand is or is unclear overall, do not hesitate to hang up the phone. You don’t owe cold callers anything.

What we’re really talking about here is basic SEO. And it’s a total pipe dream to conceive of a world in which a company is randomly alerted by Google to your specific business not placing well in a search ranking, and that they can magically remedy that for you for mere hundreds of dollars over the phone or a screen share. These are things that take weeks of work, months of discipline, and years of expertise to master.

In conclusion, the Google My Business and Google Voice Platform verification calls are a total scam designed to exploit and steal from businesses.

As a brewery, winery, distillery, or restaurant manager or owner, you’ve got to stay vigilant and be aware of these scams to protect your business. Remember to verify the legitimacy of any and all requests for sensitive information before giving out your credit card details, and take precautions to educate yourself and your employees about how to spot and avoid these scams. By taking these steps, you can protect your business from harm and ensure that you’re using Google My Business and Google Search safely and effectively.