First, the Wall Street Journal posted this article about fake businesses hijacking legitimate business names on Google Maps:
The ruse lures the unsuspecting to what appear to be Google-suggested local businesses, a costly and dangerous deception. A man arrived at Ms. Carter’s home in an unmarked van and said he was a company contractor. He wasn’t. After working on the garage door, he asked for $728, nearly twice the cost of previous repairs, Ms. Carter said. He demanded cash or a personal check, but she refused. “I’m at my house by myself with this guy,” she said. “He could have knocked me over dead.” The repairman had hijacked the name of a legitimate business on Google Maps and listed his own phone number.
Google responded to the article with this detailed post. From that post:
We get millions of contributions each day (like new business profiles, reviews, star ratings, and more) and the vast majority of these contributions are helpful and accurate. But occasionally, business scammers take advantage of local listings to make a profit. They do things like charge business owners for services that are actually free, defraud customers by posing as real businesses, and impersonate real businesses to secure leads and then sell them. Even though fake business profiles are a small percentage of the overall business profiles on Google, local business scammers have been a thorn in the internet’s side for over a decade.
We have an entire team dedicated to addressing these issues and taking constant action to remove profiles that violate our policies.
Google goes on to run through numbers, showing how many scams they’ve shut down. Which sort of goes to the point, I think. The problem exists, is massive, and Google is doing all they can, short of making businesses certify themselves in some verifiable way.
A formal verification process would be costly. As is, Google depends on the unpaid public to report fraudulent businesses. Caveat emptor.