As if you needed another reason to claim your Google Place page, the most compelling reason yet has now appeared. It is ridiculously easy (unless or until Google has fixed it) for a scammer to claim someone else’s Place Page if they have a mailing address in the same town as the business.

Don’t believe me? Mike Blumenthal uncovered the way to do it, and it is quoted in detail at Search Engine Roundtable. Read it yourself, but here’s the essence of it:

Google allows you to verify your business either by phone or by receiving a postcard from Google. In either case, you get a PIN number that you can use to verify that you are the owner.

The scam comes from the difference between the way the US Postal Service interprets the address, and the way Google uses it. In a two line address form, such as

1234 Anystreet Rd, PO Box 8910, Somewhere, TX 87654

where 1234 Anystreet Rd is the physical location and PO Box 8910 is the delivery address, the US Postal Service delivers the mail to the address closest to the zip code. In other words, to the PO Box.

Not so with Google. Google uses the first line of the address to locate the business. So what, you ask? So this: If there is a business with an unclaimed listing (in some areas, this is the majority of the businesses), and if a scammer is in the same general locality, the scammer can claim the business listing by requesting verification by mail, and putting the business address in the first line, and the scammer’s address in the second line. The postcard with the PIN number will be delivered to the scammer’s address, who can then “verify” that they are the business owner.

Naturally, we are NOT recommending that you use this technique to claim place pages other than your own! We are pointing this out as a matter of urgency to encourage you to claim your place page listing NOW.

If you’ve never thought it was important, please reconsider. Even if you only claim it and do nothing else, claim it.

Mike Blumenthal includes the following important quote at the end of his post:

I do not know if this technique is still viable. It was reported to Google approximately two months ago. They have not informed me whether it was patched and I have not tested whether it still works. If you try it for yourself (in the name of science and discovery only!), let me know.