Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series about a local man who discovered fraudulent businesses in his own field and in the process of uncovering them, ran the risk of losing his family’s own business.
Robert Rushing remembers the day in August of 2023 when he went to scope out the local competition. Rushing manages Aledo Overhead Door, a family-operated, mom-and-pop business that serves Aledo and surrounding communities.
He had learned of a company called Aledo Garage Doors and Gate located at 241 S. Front St in Aledo. This business was also in the garage door repair industry, and Rushing wanted to see what he was up against.
What ensued would ultimately amount to a six-month long odyssey of fraud, the loss of his and his father's company's Google listing, artificial intelligence stonewalling, general discomfiture and eventually the regaining of the company's listing.
But that would require a Herculean effort of diligence and perseverance on the part of Aledo Overhead Door, which should serve as a cautionary tale for other small businesses.
Rushing drove out to the address listed as the location for Aledo Garage Doors and Gate last summer, but it was not what he expected.
"It was an empty field," Rushing said. "And that's when I knew that there was something seriously wrong happening. The tile shop was just a one-off thing in my mind, but when I got to the empty field in August, then I thought, 'this is crazy.'"
The tile shop incident Rushing was referring to came a few months earlier when he discovered a company online called Aledo Garage Door Repair, which listed its address as 621 FM 1187 in Aledo.
The company actually located at that address is called Embellishments, which is a high-end tile and flooring showroom.
"Essentially, the first listing I found was the tile shop on Apple Maps," Rushing said. "That happened in May, so I called them, and I just thought it was a one-off thing that was weird. I thought 'Now we've got somebody pretending to be in Aledo, but that it was just one company.'"
"Even though this problem is with Apple Maps, the owner of the actual company (Embellishments) was having trouble getting his Google listing verified because of this," Rushing said.
Aledo Overhead Doors, Rushing's father's company, faced a similar problem.
"We are the only garage door company physically located in Aledo," Rushing said. "But we have to prove that we are real, while these other companies are committing fraud. Meanwhile, small businesses like us are stranded, trying to prove that we exist.."
The problem was that when Rushing had attempted to reach out to Google and Apple Maps about the issue, he was not able to speak to an actual person, as the listings are operated through artificial intelligence.
"Google refuses to speak with businesses about these problems," Rushing said. "All they do is give suggestions to try on the web, while these fraudulent companies operate without punishment."
These episodes, in the words of Rushing, demonstrate how easy it is to commit fraud on Google Maps and Apple Maps.
"The very things that are designed to protect us from fraud are the things that can potentially destroy us in the process," Rushing said.
To make matters worse, Aledo Overhead Doors then had its business listing suspended by Google.
"Essentially, everything is trying to be automated by artificial intelligence on every process now," Rushing said. "All the big companies are switching to an AI platform to try to automate everything. They have a human counterpart to it that is supposed to correct the mistakes that artificial intelligence makes.
“So what has happened is that the artificial intelligence from Google decided that our company didn't meet the criteria that it needs to have a listing on Google, even though we've had a listing for years."
In a tragically ironic twist, Aledo Overhead Door, a legitimate garage door business,had its listing suspended in an effort to prevent fraud.
"So the computer generated the suspension for our company, but we can't even talk to a live human being about the suspension for fear that we might actually be the fraudsters trying to sidestep the suspension," Rushing said. "It's a mouthful to try to explain, but it's basically a whole complicated series of errors. Each one by themselves doesn't necessarily mean anything, but when you compound them all together, you can literally destroy a small business that is real, because they have to prove they are real to a computer, not to a human being."
On top of all of this, a Google search for Rushing's business, Aledo Overhead Doors, reveals other “businesses” advertising in his company's name.
"This is intentionally done to confuse customers into thinking they're contacting a company in their own city when they are actually located miles and miles away," Rushing said.
The Aledo man said he is still not clear who was listing these companies or if the companies even exist.
"It could be a business, and it could just be some foreign entity that has a call center somewhere," Rushing said. "We just don't know. It could be an actual garage door company here within the Metroplex. It's hard to tell where it is coming from because we don't have the tools to back trace where the phone number is coming from."
Whoever the companies are that are doing this are bold enough to advertise in the name of their competitors, and Rushing and Aledo Overhead Door were not going to take it lying down.
The company fought back and eventually regained the Google listing for Aledo Overhead Door.
Please check back with the Community News in the coming weeks for the second installment of this story.
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