After several cases across the city of Google listings being manipulated by fraudsters to change the phone numbers of shops and financial services and put up their own numbers, Google India Director (Trust and Safety) Saikat Mitra on Tuesday said they have had a large scale takedown of several numbers fraudulently listed on Google maps.
In a media interaction, Mitra said they are also looking at analytics to identify accounts where numbers have been wrongly edited and block it. However, Maharashtra cyber police has said the number of such offences have only risen in the past year.
“The Google listings fraud is a global problem. A few months back we blocked community edit — where anyone can change a mobile number on Google listings — for financial institutions. After we did that, fraudsters stopped targeting banks and moved to other areas. Now there is a lot of analytics we are using where we are are identifying and blocking accounts,” Mitra said.
However, when it was pointed out that numbers of bank listings can still be edited, a Google spokesperson clarified that community edits on banks and other financial institutions was only done for some months in late 2018 when the particular scam peaked. “Once normalcy was restored, community edits were allowed again,” the spokesperson said.
Mitra added that apart from changing Google listings, there was also the problem where fraudsters put up wrong numbers on websites that show up in search results. “We are looking broadly at how people can be made more aware to look at reputed sites…if you are looking for Zomato’s number, you go to their website. We are doing a number of things.” He added that there was always the option of people owning their establishments on Google where a shop owner can formally identify himself as the owner with the necessary proof following which only he would be allowed to make changes.
When asked about the trend in such frauds, Maharashtra Cyber police SP Balsingh Rajput said, “The numbers have only gone up. As more and more shops are providing online services the numbers are only going to go up.”
Rajput said cases where numbers of wine shops were changed and people duped had gone up.
“Even if you change one number, the fraudsters have a list of numbers that they use and change every 15 days. They have a database and it is not an individual but a gang working on it.”
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