Each month, hundreds of millions of people rely on Google Maps. It has become the replacement for GPS in most of our cars. We rely on the service for everything from getting simple directions to doing research on a new location you’re scouting out, finding a new restaurant to try out for dinner, looking for nearby service providers and more.
Unfortunately, hackers and scammers are all too aware of the popularity of the service and have been flocking to it in increasing numbers. That’s the conclusion reached by a joint research effort conducted by Google and the University of California.
Together, they analyzed more than 100,000 businesses that were marked as “abusive” and added to the map service between mid-2014 and mid-2015.
The findings? Nearly three quarters of these (74 percent) were for businesses listed in India and the US, located in large, metropolitan areas.
There are two ways hackers and scammers make money doing this. The first is to pose as a legitimate business and vastly overcharge for the services they provide.
The second is to put a link on their map marker that looks like it’s going to the “company website,” but when you click on it, it takes you to a site infested with malware, which tries to load something nasty onto your PC or smartphone.
The particulars of the malware vary from one hacker to the next, but could they be anything from keyloggers to ransomware, or whatever else the hacker dreams up to bedevil you with.
If you don’t live in a major metro area, then odds are good that you’ll never experience this. If you do, then be sure you do some serious due diligence on any local service company you find on Google Maps, and don’t click on links that point the way to a company’s website unless it’s a company you already know and trust.
That extra step can save you a ton of money and headaches.