Scammers Targeting Businesses Through Apple & Google Maps, Routing Calls To Themselves


Wednesday, March 24th 2021, 10:59 pm
By: Clayton Cummins


OKLAHOMA CITY -

A metro business owner said scammers managed to change the phone number on his Apple Maps listing to another number with a 405-area code. The new number routed calls to the scammer and customers had no idea.

Chris Meile is the owner of Lakeside Safe and Lock in north Oklahoma City. He first began receiving negative reviews from people he had not done business with before.

Meile said he didn’t think much of it until a repeat customer who visited the store in February told him about the conversation over the phone.

“We actually found out because a customer actually had tried calling the phone number through Apple Maps,” said Meile. “They were just giving her the run around and then they got very rude with her on the phone when she was trying to ask what the address was.”

After spending a couple hours on the phone with Apple, the phone number has been changed to the correct one.

According to Meile, the scammer hit the ‘Report an Issue’ button on the listing to change it.

“There was never a phone call to us, no reaching out from Apple wanting to verify that our phone number had changed,” said Meile. “For a scammer to come along and do such a thing like that to mislead and defraud customers and other businesses the way they have, it is extremely frustrating.”

Meile hired a private investigator who called the number and set up an appointment with the scammer, but nobody showed up. 

State cyber security experts say this type of thing is becoming common. They recommend double checking numbers on a business’s official website.

“If something feels weird, it is probably weird,” said Matt Singleton, Chief Information Security Officer at the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services. “Anytime you’re placing a phone call, you’re putting yourself out there. You’re going to a website; you want to make sure that it is a legitimate contact point.”

Meile said he is now checking his Apple Maps listing once a week.

Meile wants to help raise awareness for users and protect other business owners from becoming victims.

“As a small business owner, we have a lot of things on our plate to begin with and this is just one more thing that gets thrown on there,” said Meile. “It is something that we check on a regular basis now.”

Meile has contacted the FBI and filed a complaint with the Oklahoma attorney general.

News 9 contacted Apple twice for comment and have not heard back.

Although the Google Maps listing had not been changed for Lakeside Safe and Lock, the company responded with the following statement.

“Like any platform that welcomes user-generated content, we have to remain vigilant against inappropriate content—the vast majority of which is removed before anyone actually sees it. And as more people contribute to Google Maps, we continue to crack down on the bad actors who violate our policies, using a combination of people and technology to tackle unwelcome content. 

For example, we use automated detection systems, including machine learning models, that scan the millions of contributions we receive each day to detect and remove policy-violating content. Our machine learning models watch out for specific words and phrases, examine patterns in the types of content an account has contributed in the past, and can detect suspicious review patterns. 

We also deploy teams of trained operators and analysts who audit reviews, photos, business profiles and other types of content both individually and in bulk. And we provide a way for anyone to flag reviews, inappropriate content and misleading places for removal.”