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Are you a business owner who manages your own Google My Business account? Have you received solicitations to transfer ownership over to someone you don’t even know? If so, you are most likely being scammed. Here is how it works.
You receive an email from Google My Business. In the subject line, it reads:
This might be enough to shock your system. You may suddenly start to feel a bit helpless, as if someone is hijacking the Google My Business profile you’ve worked so hard on. You start to ask questions like, “Has anybody ever heard of this guy?” “Who is this person? I’ve never heard of them!“
Your reaction is justified. What gives anyone the right to request a transfer of your Google My Business profile? Well, they really don’t but, Google has no way of preventing this fraud.
To answer that question, we have to look at the flip side. As an Atlanta Website Design company, we here at Webstuffguy.com manage dozens and dozens of Google My Business profiles for our clients. We periodically come to situations where this “Request Ownership” tool is actually quite handy.
The easiest example is when a business is being bought out by another company. Along with handing over the website, passwords, and other administrative things, the Google My Business page also needs to be passed along to the new owner.
The idea is that you send a request for transfer of ownership, and the recipient receives the request, and then accepts it.
Another example is when the Google My Business profile page has been abandoned for whatever reasons, yet still appears in Google Map searches. Perhaps that business address now belongs to a new company who cannot create a business page because it would share the same address.
The idea here is to request ownership of the page for the sake of then marking it as “business no longer exists.” Otherwise, the business page has just “gone rogue.”
Google has a rule. If you don’t respond to this email request, the scammer may end up having the page transferred over to them. They are banking on the hopes that you don’t check your email often, or that the email linked to the account is one you never log into.
So Why Would Anyone Want Your Google My Business Profile?
Here is what Google states will happen if you are the one sending a transfer ownership request, in their own words:
After you request ownership, the current profile owner has 3 days to respond. To check the status of your request, sign in to Business Profile or click the link in your confirmation email.
So now that you know that you only have 3 days to answer, it’s important to reply to the email right away and deny the request. It’s a very simple option. There is even a field where you can leave a “nice little message” to the requester.
Well, until Google figures out a way, there is no way to stop any random person from requesting ownership. They can send as many requests as they want. And you will keep getting the requests and you will have to keep responding to them. If you really want to report it and hope that Google will perhaps do something about it, you can try to reach out to them here.
We live in a world where scumbag scammers have nothing better to do with their lives. It’s an unfortunate part of our life. From people trying to get you to pay them for your domain, to spam emails threatening to sue you for photos on your website, there is no end in site. So stay sharp, and stay ahead of the game.
Time and time again, I will have a concerned client forward me an email, and it always seems to be the same culprits. If you have several domains in your domain/hosting account, you have probably seen these yourself. I hope this article gets shared enough so that small business owners understand what this is and how to avoid them. We are going to walk you through it all. After each confusing message, we will translate it in highlighted text. Please share this article with your colleagues and friends who own domains.
This message is to inform you that your invoice no. 815082095 to be due on 2020-03-28 is SUSPENDED. In this first paragraph they are doing several things. First they invent an invoice number as if you already have an outstanding balance that is due, and about to be suspended somehow. They want you tho think that your domain (Since they mention it so many times, will expire and be available to the public. There is no such invoice so don’t worry.
Please ensure that you make payment AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to avoid any TERMINATION of service to yourwebsite.com. Termination of what services, exactly? They are trying to make you think it’s about your domain. They are also making it sound as if you have an account with them that will be TERMINATED. There is a 100% chance that you have never done business with these con artists.
More scare tactics from a scam company. Here is ‘legally’ what they are telling you. That if you don’t pay this scam company, they will delete your information from their systems. 1st off, they won’t delete you, they will keep scaring you year after year. However, this isn’t how they make it sound. The idea is to have you think that your domain company (who they are trying to falsely perpetrate) will have no choice but to let your domain go and erase any of your information- so basically, your domain is free to anyone who wants it….if you don’t send them that check. Dirty scumbags.
https://domainwebstation.com/?n=yourwebsite.com&r=a&t=1585364304&p=v1- Here, they conveniently give you a link, personalized with your domain, to make a payment.
Disclaimer notice: We can not be held legally liable for any claims, damage or loss that you may incur because of the cancellation of yourwebsite.com. So this is the shameless part. Here we go again with the term, ‘cancellation.’ Nothing is getting cancelled, but the fact that they have all your information, and are trying to perpetrate themselves as your domain company could make it seem really scary. Scary enough to fork over a payment to the scam artists.
Any such damages may include but are not exclusively limited to: monetary losses, deleted data without backups, loss of position in search rankings, missed appointments, undelivered email and any other service, business or technical damages that you may incur. Gotta give them credit for their creativity of things that will happen if you don’t pay the scam artists.
For more information please refer section 19.a.3.f of our Terms of Service. As if it really existed (wink wink).
This is the final renewal message that we are required to communicate in regards to the expiration professionalofficesuitesllc.com. They say it’s a renewal message, although you never had a contract with them to begin with, so using this term is probably unlawful.
SECURE ONLINE PAYMENT: https://domainwebstation.com/?n=yourwebsite.com&r=a&t=1585364304&p=v1 Their fraudulent website seems pretty straight-forward, but you’ll notice there isn’t a whole lot of information about them. They do have an address on there but who knows if that’s real.
All online services will be restored automatically on professionalofficesuitesllc.com upon confirmation of payment. We thank you for your cooperation and continued business. In other words, services that never existed to begin with will be restored.
This e-mail was sent from a contact form on Your Company Name (http://yourwebsite.com)
Your domain is sitting in your actual account. That could be Godaddy, Bluehost, Host Gator, SiteGround, or any other legitimate domain company. If you’re not receiving an email from any of the above, then everything else is garbage and spam.
If you are not sure exactly where your domain account is, then you really should make a note of it, so you could avoid scams like this. In case you don’t remember, do a search in your inbox or ask your website design company, who helped you set everything up.
Once you do access your account, be sure to check your settings so that you will always receive important messages from them. Set your products to auto-renew every year. This way you never have to worry about your domain every expiring. Also be sure to check the expiration date of the credit card on file.
Make it a habit to sign into your domain account every once in a blue to make sure everything looks as it should.
Solution 1: Pay for Domain privacy in order to hide your personal info:
If you are receiving these fraud emails, it probably means that you declined the offer. Should you decide not to purchase the privacy add-on, you are choosing to expose all your information to opportunists, such as annoying web design companies who want to build you a website, or a graphic designer who wants to create your logo.
They now know your name, your domain, your phone number and maybe even your address. You will also expose yourself to scam artists who try to make you think that your domain will expire.
The easy solution is to pay the $10-$15 a year to privatize your personal information and do away with all the marketers and online scam artists.
Solution 2: Add Google ReCAPTCHA to your contact forms
When these companies cannot find access to your email, they resort to filling out a contact form on your website. So even if you do pay for domain privacy, you are not in the clear. To prevent spam bots from blowing up your contact forms, use Google reCAPTCHA. You’ll need a Gmail account to set one up.
Solution 3: If you’re still unsure, it’s best to contact your website designer. Personally speaking, we have been connecting domains, transferring domains, renewing domains for our clients, adding dns text records and much more. Therefore, we also usually know who you are, and who you’re not hosting with.
Ready to fight back and put these dirt bags in their place? Report them to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Here is a link to their page. Click here.