Scam Alert: Google Free Listings

SCAM ALERT! Does anyone else get calls where the automated recording always says this same thing when you pick up? “Our records show that you have not updated your free Google listing. Press 1 to verify or press 9 to be removed from this list.” I’ve automatically hung up so many times on this auto-dialer robo-call service that I hardly hear what they say after the first phrase. The first time I received the call years ago, I listened with some interest, since I was just starting my photography and computer repair business. However, something about the call sounded like a scam, so instead of following their instructions, I went ahead and just got my “free Google listing” on my own. You can view it at and if you’re interested in creating one for your business, you can visit Google Places for Business. You should never have to pay anything to update this listing!

Anyway, now that I know for sure that my free Google listing is up, it’s all the more suspicious that this other company keeps calling me, especially when it doesn’t appear to be even affiliated with Google. I’ve tried blocking them, but the worst part is that it’s ineffective because they seem to have a huge pool of phone numbers to call from. Here is a partial list of all of the numbers from which they have called me over the years to try to get me to sign up for my “free Google listing” through them:

425-320-5138 (Bellevue, Everett, Renton, WA)
206-397-1159 (Seattle, WA)
417-800-2538 (Springfield, MO)
360-633-9322 (Bellingham, Vancouver, WA)
631-904-6109 (Babylon, Brentwood, Brookhaven, NY)
310-299-0131 (Los Angeles, CA)
323-844-8184 (Los Angeles, CA)
951-221-6113 (Corona, Hemet, Riverside, CA)
541-257-1328 (Bend, Eugene, Pendleton, OR)
323-844-8185 (Los Angeles, CA)
213-603-9078 (Los Angeles, CA)
360-322-6166 (Bellingham, Vancouver, WA)
458-201-1318 (Eugene, OR)

Since “pressing 9” only seems to confirm that you are a human on the phone, and blocking a number only gets you so far, I’ve changed my strategy, and decided to keep adding these new numbers to the address book on my phone as yet another number belonging to the “Google Creeps”, and setting the ring tone to Silent. That way I can still get a sense of how often they’re calling (at least once a month).

Have this robo-dialer called you? Do you have additional numbers to report? Please leave a comment!

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Social Networking Horror Stories

I’m writing an article on Social Networking, and I need your help!  I’m on a hunt for your best Social Networking Horror Stories.  I’d like to hear about your funniest, most original, or most disturbing (true) experiences in the online world.  Did the hot blind date you picked up on Friendster turn out to be your best friend’s mom?  Did you get turned down for a job because your Facebook profile was a little TOO informative?   Did a random dorm visitor steal your AIM identity and fool all of your friends (or make a fool out of you)?  Please tell me more!

Of course, feel free to change names to protect the innocent (I’ll probably change it again, just in case), or start it off with, “Okay, this didn’t happen to ME, but I heard it from a friend-of-a-friend…”  Finally, I’d appreciate if you could end your story with some words of wisdom on Social Networking based on your own experiences.  (They don’t necessarily have to relate to the story.)  For example, my tips might be:

1) It’s okay to admit that you don’t recognize someone online who claims to be your friend.  It’s okay to ask, “Umm… sorry, how do I know you?”  And it’s also okay to not make them your friend.  It’s OKAY.

2) Snickering and big toothy grins are a dead giveaway that you’re chatting on your laptop instead of paying attention at the meeting.

3) No, IM’ing somebody even though they’re sitting right next to you doesn’t make you a loser.

The best stories will get incorporated into the Guide to Social Networking at Stanford (a work in progress), my blog (if we get enough stories, maybe we’ll turn the idea into a weekly column), and maybe even get reenacted in video or other multimedia formats.  This is all for the purpose of learning from each other about how to safely and enjoyably coexist in the online world.

Feel free to either tell your story directly on this blog as a comment or email it to me if you prefer not to have your identity associated with it (though I can’t guarantee what will happen if I get kidnapped by ninjas and they make me talk).

Got more than one story?  I’m listening!  Thanks so much for sharing!

[Today’s photos courtesy of Adobe Stock Photos.  Thanks!]