Hackers change number on Minnesota plumbing company’s Google listing: “I feel helpless.”

RICFIELD, Minn. – Many people use search engines to find a company to do work on their homes, but how reliable is this information?

Southtown Plumbing, a family-run business for 60 years, said hackers changed the phone number on its Google listing to defraud potential customers.

“I feel really helpless,” Brent Veit, vice president of Southtown Plumbing, lamented to WCCO Investigates. “My anxiety level in the last week – I haven’t felt anxiety in my entire life, and it’s there.”

According to Veit, Google sends the company a special code via postcard to “unlock” and update the listing; The local police told them there wasn't much they could do either.

“I called a web guy because that’s not my area,” Veit joked. “If you need plumbing work, this is my domain.”

Southtown employees actually called the new number, and Veit said a company claiming to be a major plumbing dispatcher answered. When the Southtown employee made a spoofed service call, Veit said the person on the other end of the line offered to connect him with a contractor in the Twin Cities.

Veit then asked for the number of her contractor in Minnesota.

“That was a question they couldn’t answer,” he explained. “If someone can’t provide the contractor number for a company here in Minnesota, don’t use it.”

Vao Bang of the Better Business Bureau said the alleged hack was an important reminder for consumers to always check everything.

“The BBB wants consumers to always stay smart,” Bang told WCCO Investigates. “And that’s a smart move because you just don’t know who’s on the other end of a phone call, an email, an advertisement or on social media.”

Bang also advised small businesses on how to mitigate the risk of future hacker attacks.

“Keep the lines of communication open with your customers,” she said. “Be transparent and share current information in a variety of ways.”

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