About a month ago, I wrote about the Fix the Tix Coalition which is advocating for laws to change exploitative ticket practices. Among the practices they were trying to change is websites masquerading as the official ticketing site of different venues.
Speaking from personal experience, the venue I run has a ticketing service that took out a Google ad smack in the middle of our venue listing on the Google results page. Even though there is a button labeled for our website, we have tons of people that follow the fake link, buy tickets for many times the list price and swear up and down they bought them from us.
Well it seems scammers are doing a similar thing with the Google results for major airlines. According to an NBC News story, scammers have managed to change to list different telephone numbers for the airlines. When people call to make or change reservations, they end up giving their credit card number and personal information to a thief.
Instead of reaching a Delta employee, Evers said he spoke to a man with a thick accent who hung up and called him back from a different number. That man then asked for payment to book a rescheduled flight. Evers recognized it as a scam and scrapped his trip.
He then went on to document six other airlines, including American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Air France, that had incorrect numbers served up by Google.
A Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the company does “not tolerate this misleading activity.”
“Our teams have already begun reverting the inaccuracies, suspending the malicious accounts involved, and applying additional protections to prevent further abuse,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson refused to address questions about how long the problem persisted, how many airlines were successfully impersonated, or why there weren’t better protections in place for major companies like the airlines.
Google has struggled to counter scammers who have learned how to get fake contact information to show up when users look up a company on Google Search or Maps.
While I would hope Google would take steps to eliminate ticketing fraud when they find a way to effectively stamp out the efforts of the folks masquerading as airlines given that they can see what a big problem it is, I suspect performance venues are too small an industry and the ad venue too enticing to inspire them to implement similar measures.