Ghost businesses: What are they, how to protect yourself

HOUSTON – When was the last time cracked open the yellow pages to find a business? The internet has changed the way we search, but KPRC 2 consumer expert Amy Davis discovered if you’re not careful, you could end up giving your business to a scammer, also known as a ghost business.

A lot of us just Google “restaurants near me” or “locksmiths near me.” But those businesses that pop up may or may not be near you. Like a ghost, these shady businesses appear to be there when they’re actually not.

“It’s more and more prevalent these days,” explained forensic investigator Colman Ryan.

“Over the years, they’ve become very obvious.”

Ryan did a Google search for “exterminators near me.” A Google listing for Terminix popped up just a couple of miles away. Most people would just call and schedule an appointment. Instead, Davis and Ryan drove to the address. They found a vacant townhome with a for sale sign out front. The realtor selling the property told Davis there has never been a Terminix at the address.

So why would a business or scammer go through all of the trouble of faking an address?

“That is the area they want to target. That’s what they’ve decided on,” Ryan said.

Free Google business listings help ghost businesses pretend to be something or somewhere they are not.

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