Google’s Battle Against Scammer: Google is taking on Ethan Hu, a scammer who used techniques “to create fake online listings for businesses that do not exist, and to bolster them with fake reviews from people who do not exist.” Hu ran a company called GMBEye.
The defendant allegedly created hundreds of fake business profiles and wrote 14,000 reviews. Hu built up these fake listings and began getting calls and requests for service. He then rented out the shell companies to online users who were promised access to customers.
Google’s Battle Against Scammer: Argument
Over the past two years, Defendants—led primarily by a single individual, Ethan Qiqi Hu—have abused Google products to create fake online listings for businesses that do not exist, and to bolster them with fake reviews from people who do not exist. Defendants sell these listings, and the inquiries from confused consumers who are lured in by them, to individuals and entities looking to promote their businesses on Google platforms. Defendants deceive these small business owners too, making unsubstantiated and impossible claims about their ability to guarantee a favorable position in Google’s search results and implying preferential treatment or access with respect to certain Google processes.
Hu also promised companies could “fast track” their business verification and could get their businesses verified without receiving a postcard that Google traditionally required physical businesses to receive in order to be added to the system.
Much of Defendants’ messaging suggests that GMBEye has preferential access to Google or is otherwise uniquely positioned with respect to Google, allowing it to secure the “Premium Business Listing Verification” that is unavailable to those who verify their businesses through Google’s free processes. The implied message is that, due to this access or relationship, GMBEye can “Fast Track Your Business Verification on Google,” according to the call-to-action at the top of its homepage. The website also claims that GMBEye is the only service that “can [provide a] 30-day guarantee [for verification in] all categories—including the notorious locksmith and garage repairs!
The goal of the scam was simple: to allow a company to own multiple verified Google listings, thereby increasing incoming customer calls. The current status of Google’s battle against scammer Ethan Hu is unclear as court filings suggest Hu is not in the U.S.
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