Google Takes Action

Nov. 16, 2016

It is no secret that scammers have had an impact on the locksmith industry. Calls to locksmiths are often from harried persons who have an urgent emergency lockout situation. Scammers have seized on the opportunity to offer lockout services to people such as these who will accept any available assistance regardless of the scammer expertise or the exorbitant service charges. The result has been that locksmith businesses in general have received a bad reputation, plus locksmiths who have the skill, expertise and morality to perform an acceptable job at a decent price have lost business to scammers.

A normal ploy of scammers is to use business names similar to existing local professional locksmith businesses. Persons with emergencies are confused by the name similarity and inadvertently call a scammer instead of the established locksmith. If the job is completed poorly or if there is an overcharge, the customer may falsely accuse the established locksmith of doing a poor job. Locksmith Doug Kimsey in the state of Washington received a bad rating on Yelp from a customer. Mr. Kimsey claimed that the poor job was done by a scammer who used a business name similar to his established business name.

Mr. Kimsey took his case to court against Yelp for extortion, libel and unfair business practice. After three years of adjudication the court ruled that Yelp is protected against lawsuits by a 1996 law called the "Communications Decency Act."  A court case instituted by a locksmith in the Washington D.C. area ended in the same manner as that locksmith also lost his case.

After hearing enough times about the devious ways scammers are apparently using the internet, Google has finally decided to take some action. A pilot program has begun in San Diego, CA. Extra security measures are being put in place to verify whether a locksmith is an established local business or a phone bank operation from thousands of miles away. The announcement from Google states, "To help reduce fraud and improve overall experience for you and your customers, we're now asking businesses to pass an advanced verification process. The process is simple - answer a few questions about your business and complete an application with Google's third-party verification company. After passing verification, your business listing will continue to be eligible to appear on Google Maps and the knowledge panel."

Pinkerton, a risk management firm, is partnering with Google on the project. Verification will take about two weeks. Locksmith Ledger will be checking with San Diego area locksmiths to determine how the project is progressing.