Beware Mashup Spam

John Musser, July 31st, 2007

In an interesting, perhaps inevitable, twist on maps mashups it looks like some companies have started using mass uploads to Google Maps to generate business. Using new variations on classic spammer techniques they get their companies to show up more often in Google’s results. How? In cases cited on SearchEnginewatch and by Mike Blumenthal they’re using non-existent PO boxes with 800 numbers in towns they don’t operate from or by using fake street addresses. Sometimes there are hundreds of these bogus listings in a single metropolitan area.

Just take a look at the example below, where “Rent a Geek, Inc” has multiple listings in the Chicago area. At first blush this seems fine until you notice that they’re always located at “100 Main Street” in each town.

Over in this Google Groups thread is where part of this discussion started:

Am I wrong in thinking that local business listings are ONLY for businesses that are local?

I noticed a new listing in my ZIP code. They are using a toll-free number and a non-existent PO Box as contact info.

They are listed in EVERY ZIP code (that I checked). Every listing has the exact same toll-free number and exact same PO Box address, but each is in a different ZIP.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=x….

TechPros has the exact same listing in every ZIP code. Not very local, is it?

This is not the first time that web service APIs have been used by spammers. Splogs, or spam blogs, are often built using tools that make use of blog platform APIs. As you can see in this post from the Blogger team back in 2005 they implemented algorithms and a CAPTCHA test to try and fight splogs.

Like every online technology that has come before it looks like we’ll start seeing more new and ‘creative’ applications of APIs and mashup techniques to generate spam. Coming soon to a mashup near you.

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4 Responses to “Beware Mashup Spam”

July 31st, 2007
at 6:33 pm
Comment by: Spam invades the map-scape « The Content Factory

[...] ProgrammableWeb.com » Blog Archive » Beware Mashup Spam [...]

August 1st, 2007
at 3:15 am
Comment by: Microformate in Google-Maps » Code Candies

[...] so gut dagegen ist, dass man sich in Zukunft auch beim mashupen Sorgen um Spam machen [...]

September 25th, 2007
at 6:30 pm
Comment by: The Content Factory » Blog Archive » Spam invades the map-scape

[...] ProgrammableWeb.com » Blog Archive » Beware Mashup Spam [...]

December 12th, 2007
at 2:15 am
Comment by: MapSpammers Coming to Mashups?

[...] this year in Beware Mashup Spam we saw how spammers were working on gaming Google Maps via mass uploads and creating questionable [...]

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John Musser
Founder, ProgrammableWeb

Adam DuVander
Executive Editor, ProgrammableWeb. Author, Map Scripting 101. Lover, APIs.