Claremore Business Owner Warns Of Google Fraud

Monday, June 21st 2010, 4:53 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK – It's getting easier to commit fraud online when it comes to Google and other listings.

A Claremore business owner says she's the victim of search engine sabotage and you could be next.

Kat Kiem recently opened Bonjour Flowers and Gifts in Claremore. She expected the usual business problems to pop up, but what she didn't expect was sabotage. She learned that when customers would Google her business her company name showed up, but the address, phone number and website under it had been replaced by a competitor's.

Lori Fullbright, The News On 6: "Because it keeps happening is why you don't think it's an accident."

Kat Kiem, Bonjour Flowers and Gifts: "Yes, that's it."

Lori Fullbright, The News On 6: "Right."

Kat called the Chamber, the Attorney General's office, the District Attorney and wrote a letter to Google.

Kat Kiem, Bonjour Flowers and Gifts: "I filed a complaint with Internet Computer Crimes Center."

Lori Fullbright, The News On 6: "Good."

Kat Kiem, Bonjour Flowers and Gifts: "Filed that."

Lori Fullbright, The News On 6: "Okay."

While everyone was sympathetic, no one could tell her how to get it stopped and she says it's costing her money.

"Hard enough to start a business in a recession, then have to combat this," she said. "It wasn't in the business plan, sabotage wasn't in the business plan."

So, the News On 6 contacted forensic computer specialist Gavin Manes with Avansic who told us it's pretty easy for anyone to edit someone else's business listing.

"I can now edit this company's information simply by logging onto my Google account," Manes said.

To prevent other people from editing your listing, you need to claim it, which means after your listing pops up, click on maps, then, more info. You'll see two options; edit this place or business owner.

Click on business owner, provide the information, then Google will do a verification then send you a letter with a pin number so only you can make changes in the future. Afterward, the listing will say, owner verified information, something customers should look for to make sure the information is legit.

"I'm trying to look at it as a learning experience," Kiem said.

Kat has claimed her listing but says yet another new feature on Google allows people to add a business, which could override a previous listing, so she says staying vigilant is your best defense.

Kat's next step is to subpoena Google's logs so she can prove who has been changing her listing.  Computer experts say the downside to all the new services and apps that keep coming out is that they make it hard to keep track of all you need to monitor.