Lawsuit seeks to stop fake locksmiths from advertising

Local locksmith caught in middle of fake Google ads

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — Tech giant Google faces a lawsuit claiming it allows fraudulent locksmiths to advertise on its search engines, diverting business away from legitimate locksmith companies.

The lawsuit, which was filed in a Virginia Federal Court, alleges that Google “knows full well that it is publishing hundreds of names of locksmiths who are performing those services illegally, yet continues to do so.”

Sandy Springs locksmith Burt Kolker told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik he is dealing with the same issue locally.  Kolker is not a part of the lawsuit.

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“In the last week we saw five incidents of clients who came back to us in a panic because they thought we were out there, wondered why we were ripping them off, wondered why we were overcharging them,” he said.

Petchenik learned of Kolker’s situation after a customer filed a police report claiming that she was ripped off by someone purporting to work for Kolker’s company.

“All of these deceptive, misleading ads have diverted many of our clients,” said Kolker.

Kolker said his store is one of just a dozen brick and mortar locksmith operations in Metro Atlanta.  He said there are a handful of legitimate mobile locksmith services, but the rest he said are ill-trained contractors working for a central office.

“They’re not locksmiths,” he said.  “They go through a central dispatch sometimes in New York, Florida, New Jersey, and they’re just dispatched to people who you can’t even contact again.”

A Google spokesman would not comment on the pending lawsuit, but a blog post by Google about the issue said:

“We've allocated substantial technical, financial, and human resources to stopping bad advertising practices and protecting users on the web,” Mike Hochberg, director of ads engineering for Google wrote in the blog.  “Hundreds of our engineers, policy experts and others have dedicated their careers to this work.”

Hochberg wrote that in 2013, Google removed 350 million “bad ads” from the site.

“To put that in perspective, if someone looked at each of these for one second, it would take them more than ten years to see them all,” he wrote.