/ Shopping, Technology

Scam watch: Google Maps listing scam

Keep up to date and avoid signing up to contracts with cold callers. Here’s how one business owner was asked to pay to remain listed on Google Maps…

John Dyer told us: I received a cold call from a business claiming to be part of Google Maps, telling me that my company’s listing was due for renewal.

The caller said it is now a chargeable service for businesses and that they would delete my entry if I didn’t pay the fee.

I agreed and was passed over to their line manager, who took me through a recorded verbal 12-month rolling contract and said an invoice would be due in 14 days.

The next day I received an invoice that looked rather unprofessional. At this point, I started to smell a rat, so went online and saw many complaints of similar scams. From the 14th day onwards, I have been receiving daily demanding phone calls. I’ve reported the company to trading standards, which seems to be well aware of these activities and told me not to pay anything.

Our say on cold calling scams

We say: A seller pretending to be another company and carrying out practices such as these may be guilty of a criminal offence. To be an offence, the seller’s commercial practice must involve a misleading action or omission, or an aggressive practice.

A misleading action could be the seller providing false information about which company they are calling on behalf of. A misleading omission could be hiding the fact that you can cancel the telephone contract (up until the 14th day after the day on which the contract is agreed). An aggressive practice could be persistent phone calls persuading you to pay up under the telephone contract where you otherwise wouldn’t have done so. In this instance, you were right to contact trading standards.

Have you been a victim of this scam or a similar one? Do you have any tips for spotting one of these cold call scams?

Comments

I had a cold call about a Free Trial on Google Ads, did not agree to anything, but days later got a notification from Google with my 5 Digit ‘Activation Code’. Did NOT input it for Free Trial. Days later got a letter and the calls from Search Point UK about the Free Trial, they requested the Activation Code, did not give it to them. They were calling up to 4 times a day on my land line, which I have stopped answering, they wanted me to start the Free Trial, or wanted the Activation Code so they could get my Free Trial started! Once the free trail has expired, the paid account starts, followed (I assume) by and Invoice from Google Ads. You are then indebted to Google Ads! I have told Search Point UK NOT to call me again else I will report them to the Police, and will file a complaint with Google and their parent company Alphabet Inc in USA AND will report Google to the regulator in USA (and also possibly SEC in Washington!!). These practices need to STOP.

how do we stop the constant harassment they are sending me out letters saying that they have a voice recording of me agreeing to the advertising. im sick of the calls and want to get them off my back what do i do

Hi,
I received a phone call from Search Point UK couple of days ago. They wanted to setup my google page and wanted to send me a 5 digit code from google. I told them to go ahead and send me the code. The letters arrived from search point uk and google.

Search point uk letter has a title of 30 day free trial and they requesting the 5 digit code. They called me and asked me to give the code and kep repeating same stuff over and over again to convince me giiving the code. This morning i didi a google search about the search point uk and luckily found this page just 5 minutes before they call me. They called and asked for the code but I DIDN’T GIVE THE CODE AND TOLD THE GUY TO CANCEL ANYTHING I HAVE ON THEM AND NOT TO CALL ME ANYMORE. The guy was indeed sounding like a young british man speaking quickly with a sort of difficult accent to understand. I assume this is intentional as i am not a native speaker and therefore could miss some of what he says and accept what he says without fully understood. Anyway after a 5 minutes battle the guy said YES I AM CANCELLING IT. Now i am not sure if i am safe and not giving him the code is enough to feel safe?

Luckily i downloaded a CALL RECORDER to my smartphone record the conversation just before they call me.

What do you think guys, am i safe?
Is 30 days trial only starts if i give them the code? or already started.

Lucy Nash says:
4 October 2018

Don’t speak to them, I’ve got caught and its gone on for months.

Jackie says:
27 June 2018

We have had many of the same issues as everyone else. SearchPoint uk, previously known as Map Registrations I believe. Lied that we were already signed up and needed to renew our subscription.We have no paperwork so I would have no idea what I was signing up to, asked for an invoice to be emailed which said it was my ‘membership fee’. Since I don’t want to belong to this ‘club’ and don’t have any idea what I am going to get for my ‘membership fee’ I declined and the daily phone calls started.I can only repeat what the other posts say. So far as I am concerned they can take me to court and I will use it to generate as much adverse publicity as I can to alert other people to their immoral and unprincipled trading practices.

Richard says:
2 July 2018

Search Point UK have been plaguing us with twice daily phone calls for weeks which are becoming ridiculous. Sadly we did give them a code so they feel the need to keep following up. But we have told them in many, many different ways to PLEASE STOP CALLING THIS NUMBER. They don’t stop however, and it seems entirely counter productive on their part, since they must realise by now that we will never, ever do business with them. The number always shows up as WITHHELD which already tells you something about their methods. In the end presumably they will get bored, or we will resort to profanity and open contempt. All I can say is that the staff must be both very thick skinned and highly pressurised to keep calling people who know what they’re up to, and don’t wish to talk to them.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

Anon says:
5 July 2018

Literally worked there, worst company ever they cold call everyone multiple times, the managers are evil and only care about money, are nice to you one minute and evil the next, they treat the people on the dialers like babies handing them out sweets and talking to them like infants, this company shouldn’t exist, I can remember one instance of working there when I was told to send the same letter 6 times in 6 days to the same business updating them of the statistics of the page, not only is this free to do yourself and is not hard, to be honest I would do it for you as good as they do for ÂŁ5, not ÂŁ200 as they quote everyone. If you get a call from these people you are doomed once they have your number if you can’t block them you’re screwed!

Kerry says:
19 July 2018

We too have been foolish enough to fall for this and my partner received a google code by text and was constantly hassled until he gave it to them. Can / how do you close the google my business page they have activated?

They will now start pestering you with demands for payment. They will send you an invoice including details of how well your page is doing (of course your page would be functioning perfectly well in any case). They will phone you constantly and they will never stop. If you request a recording of the original phone call they will send you one but it will be doctored in their favour. In our case it was obvious that it had been tampered with. The best thing to do is contact your Trading Standards office and register a complaint and then note the numbers they use and block them if you can or ignore them (this is not easy as it drives you up the wall) they also use a Withheld number. Do not try to reason with them it’s a waste of your time to engage these people, just ignore them. Their objective is to get you to pay up, nothing else. Trading Standards must have many complaints about this company and therefore the more there is the better. A little light at the end of the tunnel is that there is an active proposal to strike off this company on the Companies House site. You can look at that and you can also, with a bit of investigation, trace the main person of interest through his many scam businesses.

rachael jones says:
16 October 2018

Don’t close the google my business page but call them on 0800 026 0793 and request that they reclaim ownership of your business for you. They request it on your behalf and after 7 days you can call them back because Search Point UK won’t have replied them and they will recover it for you. Not only that they will talk you through how to set it up to show what you want and have control of.
Big Learning Experience for me !

This seems to be the way forward.
The person on the phone (Shivani) was very helpful when I called them this morning.
I hope SearchpointUK will stop calling me once they can’t access the page any longer.
Naivity comes at a cost at times…

Please help us! We have also been had by search point uk with their constant harassing phone calls and sadly agreed to it just to get them off the phone. We’ve been sent an invoice and have been told they are taking us to court as we’ve not paid it and refusing to. We’ve told them we don’t want their services.
Has anyone else been taken to court or is this yet more scaremongering?

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Oh ok, will they be able to cancel this dreaded invoice? Thank you so much for the advice, really appreciate it

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Lucy Nash says:
4 October 2018

Yes, exactly the same, harassed into taking a ‘free’ trial for a month then constant calls firm up the year contract. Within days a bill arrives saying over due then the calls start. It’s being going on for over 6 months. They use very heavy handed pressure calls and phone daily, they use a number that I can’t block. Will contact trading standards but I so fed up!!

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Lucy Nash says:
4 October 2018

The Company is Searchpoint Uk Ltd – number 0844 826 1152

Beware all who receive a call – just hang up and do not engage!!!

They use other telephone numbers. A withheld number and a Leeds number ending in 28.

RAN JAN says:
30 October 2018

hi
thank you for your advise .
i had a same issue .

Panos says:
7 August 2018

Report them to Google, here:

https://support.google.com/business/contact/gmb_3p_complaints

Then request a Termination of End Customer relationship and they legally have to allow you to disassociate your company from them within 7 days. They are also legally obliged to give you exclusive control of your listing.

Their practice is not to use any written contracts or agreements, but thankfully Google are aware of these practices where scam artists try to use legal loopholes and intimidate people – a recorded conversation is NOT sufficient if there is a conflict according to Google:

https://support.google.com/business/answer/7353941

Termination of end customer relationship

“Your end customer must be given a quick and easy way to stop using your service to manage their Google My Business account(s). Within seven (7) business days of receiving notice from an end customer, you must provide that client the ability to disassociate their Google My Business account from your services and regain exclusive control of their Google My Business account(s). If you had permission to manage or otherwise change the end customer’s account, you must also relinquish and remove those permissions accordingly.”

Prohibited practices

Claiming a business without consent:
“You can claim and manage a business listing only if you obtained the business owner’s express consent as required by the applicable law (written consent or implying a form of positive action like checking a box in a form). Verbal consent isn’t sufficient if there is a conflict between the third party and the merchant. Don’t pre-emptively claim a listing to encourage, persuade or force a business to become a customer.”

Susan Wilson says:
17 September 2018

Thank you, this was most helpful and I have just posted a complaint to Google. Search Point have had ownership of my Google site since December and have not released it, despite being asked to do so.

rachael jones says:
16 October 2018

Really good advice – followed your steps above and reported them to google. Hopefully with enough complaints they will close them down.

At no point did they tell me i was paying for a free service i could easily set up myself.

Panos says:
26 October 2018

Hello Susan,

Log in into Google and request ownership of your listing. They will not reply (of course) which means that after 7 days you can log in again and request that the pin number is sent (preferably by post) to your business’ registered address.

Once you receive the pin, you will have full control of your account.
Email Searchpoint at collections@searchpointuk.co.uk and explain that you have full control of your business listing and that you are aware of Google’s regulations (as per my initial comment) – copy/paste those onto your email.

They try to bully you into thinking that agreeing over the phone with a recording available, you are liable to pay for a service which is essentially free.

Unless you have signed a form outlining terms and conditions, or actively checked a box on a form, they have no leg to stand on.

They pestered us for months, but I began pestering them instead and then they emailed me confirming they will be leaving us alone and our invoice is now written off.

this company is utter scum, they will not take no for an answer, their aggressive marketing is harassment, I feel no end to what they are trying to do. I get several calls a day to the business and my mobile number, i’ve lost my patience now and just tell them where to go on most occasions, I have told them to take me to court to get the ÂŁ300

Just wondered if you ever resolved your problems with this company and did they take to to court

Ok, I got suckered into this and paid the money to Search Point UK believing they were google. Since then I’ve discovered that I could of done the same service for free myself. Anyway, I’m looking ahead to next year and fully expect a load of hassle when I don’t want to renew, they can keep this years payment as that’s my fault but how do I get control of my google listing from them and take control of this myself? I want to preempt this before the renewal comes round. Thanks

I get where most of these posts are coming from but has anyone actually just asked for the listing back? Or admitted they changed their mind? That’s what I did and I got my request done pretty quick. I read their website after I agreed but they don’t hide what they do or that I could do it for free myself. I emailed them direct and got it all done. Has anyone else done that?

rachael jones says:
16 October 2018

Got suckered myself but didn’t get to the stage of paying. They didn’t hand back ownership to me I contacted Google my Business and they did it for me. They also talked me through how to use it and edit details.

We were also approached by searchpoint and agreed to the free trial, after the thirty days were up we agreed to go ahead, as we went to pay our card was declined three times and later on that evening we had an automated phone call telling us of suspected fraudulent activity,. We then decided not to go ahead and tried to explain why to Searchpoint but they were not interested in listening and just keep sending us invoices with the latest threatening court action, which i personally dont think they will carry out.My husband does not remember giving them an activation code to make the business go live so not sure who has control, I have messaged google my business to find out, they pester us with unknown numbers and if we dont pick up they use a mobile number or another number which is also connected to another business in the same building which is something to do with PAT testing, we have asked for paperwork from them which they say they will post and dont and the only letters we get are invoices which we have no intention of paying, they are scum and have a proposal against them to strike them off

Belinda, They are getting more and more desperate as the deadline for their accounts approaches and I’m sure also Trading Standards are on their case, considering all the complaints they must have received. There is still an “active proposal to strike off” on the Companies House website. Hold fast and don’t let them bully you into submission. I know how you can get to that stage as I’ve been to the point of signing a cheque myself but my anger prevented me. It’s not easy, they won’t give up, you just have to be strong.

Susan
Thankyou for your feedback it is worrying when they start threatening county court action but we are holding fast and we are keeping a record of how many times they phone and writing down the phone numbers they use as they keep trying different ones to get us to answer, as soon as they say who they are I just put the phone down, I am at the angry stage and refuse to be bullied by them and reading other people’s comments does make me feel better

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LucyB says:
19 October 2018

We have been caught out as well and the same harassment for months. We have now regained control of our site from Google ( but the calls continue. My advice – just hang up and do not engage in any form of conversation. I’ve complained to Trading Standards, google and the Information Commissioners office (ICO) https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-pecr/electronic-and-telephone-marketing/telephone-marketing/ They blatantly go against all the various regulations and must be stopped.

Have just looked on companies house website and according to them search point dissolved 6 November 2018 so does this mean they are no longer trading, can anyone give any further information on this

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Peter Wilson says:
19 November 2018

Search Point UK Ltd was dissolved at Companies House on 6 November 2018 but appears to be continuing to use ‘Search Point UK’ as the trading name of a partnership of which Stephanie Louise Gaunt and Matthew Paul Adamson – the former directors of Search Point UK Ltd – appear to be the sole partners. No accounts were ever filed for the Limited company (it was only formed on 14 March 2017 as Map Registrations Ltd, before changing its name three days later to Search Point UK Ltd) and the operation appears to be continuing as before.

Yep the phone calls have started again, two within ten minutes and it came up on the phone as international and no phone number left,am seriously getting fed up with them now

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I am blocking them each time they ring with a new number, but they are trying to get us to pay an invoice even though the bank flagged it a possibly fraudulent activity which is why we said we wanted nothing more to do with them but they don’t seem to understand the word no, and you can’t reason with them because they just read from a script

I have sent a form to insolvency and made a complaint as they are illegally trading,they have spoken to my partners employees about the debt and even told them to pay!! but calls every single morning are dragging him down.Trading standards are aware of it too and i hope that they slam them in court for breaching insolvency guidelines

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Duncan
I have no intention of paying them any money, they rang twice within ten minutes yesterday, the number flagged up as international and when I answered it was searchpoint uk so just put the phone down, they can call all they like but they will not be getting a penny from us, even though they keep adding interest, and each time they use a new number I just block it

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This is a copy of a letter I have despatched today

Dear Sirs

I am so angry that I don't know where to start. Your harassment of this charity for money we neither owe or intend to pay has become totally out of hand with phone calls every day, more than once a day, pressing us for money.

We feel we were conned into paying a subscription in November 2017. Your company (If that is what is is) adds nothing to the operation of our charity which helps people suffering financial hardship in the town of …………. It is clearly a scam.

When you first called asking for renewal of this subscription I advised the caller, they usually give their name as either [Names removed for rights for individuals' privacy – Admin], that I would consult with the Chairman of this charity. Having done so I advised you, on each of your numerous calls, that we would not be renewing this subscription. As you continued to call I e-mailed you on 19th November 2018, with written confirmation that we would not renew the subscription and asked you to cease calling. This had no effect whatsoever as calls continued as if you had ignored all previous contact.

Your callers refer to evidence that there is a verbal agreements to pay. We have never agreed to pay. Because you did not desist from phoning, on a number withheld line, I e-mailed you again on 10th December 2018 imploring you to discontinue your harassment.

You still ignored this and continue with the daily calls most of which I just put the phone down. You now send us a 'Final Demand for Payment' letter threatening compensation payment charges. You have even called twice whilst I am constructing this letter.

The internet is full of people and organisations suffering similar abuse from so called Search Point UK. The 'Which Scam Watch' site has scores of people with identical grievances to ours, unable it seems to stop your harassment for payment of services they do not want.

This is the final written communication that I shall send to you. I have no confidence that you will desist but somebody must put a stop to your activities.

Yours angrily

I have copied this letter to the BBC's Watchdog programme

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For a few weeks the telephone calls ceased but they started up again two weeks ago. When the call starts “can I speak to Jim” I can tell at once it is from them and as soon as this is established I put the phone down. But they will then phone again as if nothing has happened.

Dougal says:
8 February 2019

Has anybody recently had any communications from ‘Searchpoint UK’ ? I thought that their methods and marketing activity would by now have been dealt with by ‘Google’ and ‘Trading Standards’ ? Our company had a phone call from them in January in which they purported to be representing ‘Google’ . The outcome of this call with a very ‘polite’ representive of ‘Searchpoint’ , was that we now have a ’30 free trial’ with a listing on ‘Google’ search for our business ! We have read quite a lot about what is likely to follow !
We haven’t signed anything or entered a code into any ‘form’. Has anyone who has arrived at this position got any idea how we might simply get off their listing ! Thankyou for any suggestions !

Please ignore them when they phone you, they will try to intimidate you into paying and will send threatening letters, we have been through this and they have started ringing us again today after hearing nothing since November, we just put the phone down and block any numbers as they use lots of different ones

SJohns says:
17 February 2019

They are currently hassling my mother who owns a small business. She has not signed up to anything. they have taken over her business listing and changed it to show a load of rubbish which just is not true. They have also used pictures from her website without her permission. I have requested her business listing back so we will see what happens. These people should be prosecuted.