Google Sues Online Marketer for Violating Terms of Service
In a recent lawsuit, Google has taken legal action against an online marketer who allegedly violated its terms of service. The purpose of the lawsuit is to prevent the defendant from causing further harm to Google, business owners, and consumers. The individual being sued is a member of a public Facebook group called “Rank and Rent – GMB Strategy & Domination.”
The lawsuit accuses the defendant and their company, GMBEye and Rafadigital, of engaging in fraudulent activities that violate both federal and state laws, as well as violating their contract with Google. The three main schemes the defendants are accused of include fraudulent verification of nonexistent business profiles, posting fake reviews on business profiles, and selling real business leads obtained from unsuspecting customers who seek services from the businesses listed on the defendants’ fake business profiles.
Rank and rent is a practice in which individuals create business websites and associated profiles with the intention of either selling leads, renting them to businesses, or selling the entire profile and website. This practice gained popularity around 2019.
Interestingly, those involved in rank and rent openly discuss their strategies and advertise the sale of their websites and business profiles on public Facebook pages. The lawsuit includes a screenshot of the defendant’s posts in the rank and rent Facebook group, where they claim to be renting and selling Google Business Profiles.
Google Business Profile Verification Services
GMBEye, the defendant’s company, offered Google Business Profile verification services and promised top listings. Google states that GMBEye falsely claims to have preferential access to Google, allowing them to bypass verification procedures and guarantee top placement in Google search results. These claims are misleading and false, as Google’s search algorithm determines search rankings, and no company can guarantee a particular placement.
The lawsuit reveals that GMBEye’s messaging suggests they have a proprietary process for establishing trust with Google and can fast track the verification process. The defendant also made extraordinary claims, boasting that they could verify businesses with spammy names, which goes against Google’s measures to maintain accuracy and quality in business profiles.
GMB Profiles and Fake Reviews
The lawsuit accuses the defendant of offering services to improve Google Maps and GMB profile listings, including encouraging reviews. They also claim to be able to rank customers #1, a red flag in the search marketing industry as no one can guarantee such a ranking.
The defendant’s company advertised itself as specializing in lead generation, driving sales calls and contacts to businesses. This practice aligns with the rank and rent model.
Defendants’ Scheme Description
The lawsuit describes how the defendants operated their scheme. They would create fake business profiles accompanied by fake websites based on simple templates. These fake businesses were associated with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone numbers that matched the supposed locations of the fake businesses. The defendants have been connected to over 350 fake business profiles since mid-2021.
How Defendants Tricked the Google Verification System
Surprisingly, Google’s verification system was easily circumvented by the defendants. Little effort was made to create convincing proof of being a real business. For example, the same toolbench was photographed from different angles to create the illusion of a legitimate business. The lawsuit includes screenshots and images provided by the defendant during the verification process for various fake listings.
Rank and Rent – GMB Strategy & Domination Facebook Group
The lawsuit highlights a Facebook group named “Rank and Rent – GMB Strategy & Domination,” where the defendant sold business listings. The lawsuit includes an example of a post in which the defendant offers to sell a nonexistent business’s business profile for $1,000.
Fake Google Profile Reviews
The defendant is also accused of selling fake reviews for business profiles. These fake reviews were outsourced to providers in Bangladesh and Vietnam. The lawsuit claims that the defendants are connected to a network of over 350 fraudulent business profiles with more than 14,000 fake reviews, most of which were awarded a perfect five-star rating.
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