Back in March 2019 (just last month), Yelp announced a new initiative called Verified Licenses, which is supposed to bring peace of mind to booking a professional that’s listed on Yelp.com. I did some checking of my own on a few local businesses. I found that despite Yelp displaying a verification logo and link to license information, the actual license information of these businesses is bogus. In some cases, the license numbers aren’t even valid license numbers in the State where the business listed.
Let’s take an example of a local business called AM Moving Company in Dallas, Texas. I found this business by searching on Yelp for moving companies in Dallas, TX. This is one of the moving companies that shows up at the top of the list of Yelp’s search results. Dallas is a major metro area, and the business has a logo next to it saying that it’s been verified by Yelp. So, as a consumer, I would fully expect that Yelp has actually verified the business license of this company, which would give me peace of mind. The following screen captures show exactly what I did, and how I checked up on this particular business.
In this case, the company’s license is INACTIVE with the State of Texas, meaning that there is definitely a problem with the license of that particular company. Yet Yelp has apparently verified the license.
Does that give you peace of mind, as a consumer, that you should trust Yelp’s license verification process? I typically would see that Yelp checked the license apparently, by seeing the logo, and then trust that they’ve checked. But if you go to the actual TxDMV website (Texas Department of Motor Vehicles) and put in the license information, it shows that it’s inactive. Anyone can check the license information on that site if the business (a moving company) is in Texas.
Let’s take a look at another example. The 2nd result for moving companies in Dallas also has a verified license logo, as well. This company’s name is Expert Dallas Movers. Let’s check their license information, as well.
Here’s the Yelp verification license information:
It has a number of 2896447 that isn’t actually a valid TxDMV number. I checked it in the US DOT # field as well, and there are no records found:
I searched by company name and even by DBA and the TxDMV site has NO records for a company by the name of Expert Dallas Movers. So, in my opinion they are NOT licensed in the State of Texas, or at least under that name that’s listed on Yelp. Despite the fact that they have 42 reviews and, more importantly, Expert Dallas Movers has their license verified by Yelp. It appears that the number and company name that was inputted by the business is bogus, and Yelp never ever verified the license of this business.
The third listing in Yelp for Dallas Movers did reveal Einstein Moving Company, LLC, which is, in fact, a licensed company in the State of Texas. So, 2 out of 3 businesses that I checked, despite having a Verified License logo next to their listing, has no license in the State of Texas that I could find. That’s concerning to me.
Let’s take a look at yet another moving company in Texas whose license has been verified by Yelp:
Adler Moving Co, LLC, Sherman Texas: TxDMV status REVOKED, yet it was Verified by Yelp on 2019-03-27
Another business, a moving company in Austin, Texas, called Almighty Moving Services, License #007270267C, shows as being verified by Yelp. The license is inactive with the TxDMV:
Yelp’s License Problem Not Limited to Movers
With the moving companies whose licenses I manually checked, there were plenty that did check out: they had current, valid licenses with the TxDMV. But there were plenty that I found that were invalid or revoked. It was actually fairly easy, though, to find Yelp Verified Licenses that were revoked or, just fraudulent. The problem is not limited to just movers and moving companies.
This particular business, Thailandia Massage at 5630 N Eldridge Pkwy Ste 850 Houston, TX 77041, apparently has a Verified License by Yelp. See the image below:
Then, take a look at the results on the TDLR site (https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/LicenseSearch/) for the license.
However, if you check the TDLR, the number provided by Yelp (or provided to Yelp), is ME3632, which is NOT actually a massage license. It’s a Master Electrician’s license according to the search results. This can be confusing–as someone has recently pointed out to me that the TDLR has more than one place to verify a license number. Or, in fact, the license numbers in the TDLR system (Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation) doesn’t display all of the licenses that the know about. Searching by name reveals that the license TDLR ME3632 actually has been assigned to Thailandia Massage and is currently valid.
Other Local Services Verify Licenses
Other local services, such as Google, and the Better Business Bureau, verify licenses. This is nothing new, Yelp’s service is fairly new.
On the flip side, Google’s “Google Guaranteed” services apparently does two Pinkerton background checks on businesses before they say that they’re verified. One is on the individual, and the other is on the business entity. Google apparently also checks with the BBB, the Better Business Bureau.
Speaking of the BBB, I checked with a local Dallas representative of the BBB, and they confirmed that they do a background check on their Accredited Members.
In my opinion, if you are going to display a logo that a local business has a verified license, you had better make sure that the business actually has a license and that you have verified it. In the cases of these particular moving companies that I have checked, that’s not the case. They don’t have valid licenses despite having a verified logo next to their Yelp listing.
It’s Not Limited to Verified Licenses
I did some additional research, and found that there are businesses on Yelp (for example, movers) who are advertising on Yelp, yet they are not licensed, either. Here is a company who is paying for an ad on Yelp but they are NOT licensed in the State of Texas: YB Movers of Houston.
Here’s yet another moving company advertising on Yelp but they’re not licensed either:
Get-It-N-Go Movers of Carrollton, Texas
Fake addresses? Sure, those exist on Yelp, as well:
Bellhops movers, who bills themselves as a “modern alternative to traditional movers”, is actually using a fake address for their business listing on Yelp. The address, 3736 Glencoe St, Ste 1108, Dallas, TX 75206 is actually an apartment complex. So it should be “apartment 1108” not “suite 1108”, if even “apartment 1108” actually exists. There are no records in the State of Texas’s TxDMV website for a company named “Bellhops”, no DBA, and no records found. Meaning that they, too, are not licensed in the State of Texas to do business as a moving company.
I found another moving company with a Verified listing on Yelp with a fake address:
The Move Pros, with 55 reviews, https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-move-pros-mckinney?osq=Movers actually lists their address as 1 Movers Way, McKinney, TX 75070. That address does not exist in McKinney, Texas, as far as I could tell. Also, a simple Google search of the phone number shows another company name with the same phone number: Relo Pros of McKinney, Texas. https://www.yelp.com/biz/relopro-movers-mckinney. ReloPros has 6 reviews that are not recommended (hidden) by Yelp.
Yet here is another company, Expert Fort Worth Movers, claimed in Yelp, that’s not licensed in the State of Texas: https://www.yelp.com/biz/expert-fort-worth-movers-fort-worth yet the listing is claimed. The address 777 Main St Fort Worth, TX 76102 is a virtual office (Executive Workspace). There is no company named “Expert Fort Worth Movers” registered with the TxDMV when I checked.
Unlicensed Business Can Still Advertise
According to Yelp, unlicensed businesses can still advertise on Yelp. In a Tweet response back in March, Yelp said the following: “The Yelp Verified program was created to help consumers recognize businesses with valid trade licenses. If we’re unable to verify a business’ license after they’ve applied for the badge, the business can continue to advertise on Yelp without it…” So, if I want to create a business, and I’m not licensed in the State of Texas, even though Texas requires a license, I can still advertise on Yelp. I can create a business listing and do business with unsuspecting consumers: yet I’m unlicensed, and Yelp KNOWS that I’m unlicensed.
I’m extremely concerned over Yelp’s policy to knowingly allow businesses to continue to advertise on the Yelp platform despite the fact that Yelp *KNOWS* that a business is unlicensed in their State to do business.
Note: This post has been updated and will be updated when warranted or when I come across additional information. Last updated 4/23/19.