Posted November 22, 2006 9:29 am by with 7 comments

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For a brief time yesterday, TechCrunch speculated that Google had removed its Click-to-Call function on Google Maps, due to prank calls. The post was later updated to confirm the function was still in place.

It does raise an interesting question about the potential for abuse. What is to stop someone from simply clicking dozens of links and entering the phone numbers of friends, enemies or premium numbers?

I can see the spammers making their plans now. Within weeks we’ll hear about a wave of businesses receiving phone calls with recorded messages from an ousted prince in Nigeria.

  • Google addresses this subject, albeit briefly, in the Click-to-Call FAQ:

    What if someone enters my phone number instead of theirs as a prank call?
    Google takes fraud and spamming very seriously. We use technical methods to prevent future prank calls from the same user within a reasonable period of time. You won’t be charged for any such calls. Please contact if you believe someone is entering your phone number without your permission or knowledge.

  • sir spamalot

    The idea of telephone spammers using google’s click-to-call is serious, but serious spammers can already do this very easily. If you have skype and the skype toolbar for firefox, explorer, etc., you can search for businesses with google maps and skype will highlight the phone numbers. With one click you can call those numbers using skype. Since calls to numbers in the US and Canada are free with skype right now, the cost to spammers is zero. Furthermore, its very difficult, if not impossible to trace the call since no caller ID is transfered to the recipient. I am not sure if any telephone spammers have picked up on this yet. However, if they haven’t, they only have about a month left before skype starts charging for calls again in the US and Canada.

  • What’s to stop someone from signing up for a bunch of email subscriptions using someone else’s email address?

    I’m sure it happens quite frequently and I would suspect that the same would apply here.

  • Gregg,I’m sure Google has similar language for click fraud, but that still happens. 🙂

  • I don’t think fraudsters are reading the FAQ in either case. I only point it out as an indicator that they gave it some thought. 🙂

    Pranks aside, it’s going to be shocking to many when a widget wholesaler receives a call for retail widgets and that wholesaler still has to pay for that call. “Pay Per Call” is going to have limited usage and a short lifespan for that reason alone.

  • Andy,
    Just like AdWords, Click to Call will be subject to abuse. What’s the difference between clicking on your competitor’s ads and typing in your phone number?

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