3 On Your Side
3 On Your Side

Small business owners targeted in fake Google scheme

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Jen Rosentreter isn't just a landscaper. She's a landscape artist who specializes in making yards beautiful.

“So, we poured the concrete here and then we laid irrigation underneath,” Rosentreter said, as she showed us photographs of some of her finished projects.

Rosentreter owns a company called Jen's Landscaping out near the Superstition Springs Mountains.  And, like any company, Rosentreter realizes the Internet plays a crucial role in drumming up business. “It’s important for potential clients to see us and, you know, see what we're all about."

That's why Rosentreter says she likes the idea of being profiled prominently on the search engine Google. In fact, just type in her company's name and all of her business information stands out on the right-hand side of the screen.

But take a closer look and Rosentreter sees something that's just not true. Inside a red banner stretched across her company’s name, it says her company is "permanently closed."

“That makes us look bad, even though we're not permanently closed. It looks like we have closed up shop which we have not."

Rosentreter says the disturbing news was brought to her attention when she got a phone call recently from someone claiming to be with Google.

In that conversation, the so-called Google representative said he would take down the "permanently closed" banner but only if Rosentreter agreed to pay $399.

She said no wa,y and decided to contact 3 On Your Side. 

“You are falsifying my business,” she remembers telling the man on the phone. “This isn't cool. He kept saying, ‘I'm sorry ma'am but until you pay the $399 we cannot take that off.’"

3 On Your Side contacted Google which told us Rosentreter is the victim of a third party, rogue company posing as Google.

Google says someone apparently took over the online ownership of Rosentreter’s online listing, allowing them to post whatever they want, like "permanently closed."

They then weasel and demand $399 out of small business owners like Rosentreter to remove the permanently closed banner.

Google is trying to fight and prevent this from happening and is even suing one company for the practice.

In the meantime, Google provided 3 On Your Side a list of online steps that Rosentreter will have to initiate on her own in order to take "permanently closed" down and to correct the matter.

Rosentreter wonders just how many small businesses out there are falling for the scam.

“Yeah, there could be a million other companies struggling with this as well or instead of putting money into their business, they're having to pay $399 in order to stay open,” she said.

Google has sent 3 On Your Side some links talking about this very issue and giving steps homeowners need to take to ensure this doesn’t happen to them.

The information can be found below.

How the fake Google scheme works: 

https://smallbusiness.googleblog.com/2015/09/protecting-people-from-illegal-robocalls.html

http://searchengineland.com/google-files-suit-against-seo-firm-accused-of-robocalling-launches-complaint-center-for-users-230796

Steps small business owners need to take to correct fake Google scheme

http://searchengineland.com/google-files-suit-against-seo-firm-accused-of-robocalling-launches-complaint-center-for-users-230796

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

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Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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