Google Maps can detect fake phone numbers in photos and remove them

Did you know Google can now detect if scammers are overlaying fake phone numbers in user-contributed photos within Google Maps and automatically detect and block those photos from displaying on business listings within the local search results?

Google has released some information on its efforts to combat fake content and reviews in Google Maps and local search. Here is some of the figures Google shared of those efforts, but was it enough?

Google Maps spam fighting. Here are some of the statistics Google shared on how it fought Google Maps spam in 2022:

  • Blocked or removed over 115 million policy-violating reviews (20% more than last year)
  • Blocked or removed over 200 million photos
  • Blocked or removed over 7 million videos
  • Prevented 20 million attempts at creating fake Google Business Profiles

Machine learning. Google also added two new machine learning-based techniques to help detect and prevent spam in Google Maps.

(1) Google said they released a new “machine learning model” that helped them “identify novel abuse trends many times faster than previous years.” This helped them find a sudden uptick in Business Profiles with websites that have .design or .top TLDs and quickly acted on those.

(2) Google also added a new machine learning model to detect scammers who overlayed inaccurate phone numbers on top of user-contributed photos to scam searchers to call the numbers in the phone number and not the official business phone number.

Is it enough. Just the other day, Jason Brown how hotels are being spammed with fake positive reviews and the hotel managers are nervous what this might result in. He also recently reported how review spammers are using ChatGPT to generate fake reviews for Google Maps.

Google did say, “While we’ve made a lot of progress in this area, we know that scammers continue to evolve — and we will too.”

Why we care. Spam and fake information in search is a hassle we all see and have to deal with as marketers. None of us like to be hit with spam, and none of us like to have fake reviews left on our businesses or clients’ business listings. Google is trying to reduce spam efforts but as you can imagine, it is a cat-and-mouse game.

As Google comes up with more ways and techniques to prevent and/or reduce spam, spammers find other ways around those efforts. You can see Google’s efforts last year, over here.

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About the author

Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry can be followed on Twitter here.

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