July 14, 2022 · less than 3 min read
There’s a new type of extortion hitting eateries across the States.
One star, wouldn’t recommend
You’ve gotta feel for the hospitality industry. Many restaurants are already on their knees thanks to the burning legacy of Covid and all the staff departures plaguing the sector since. And now, as they’re in the midst of recovery mode, a new scamming technique has arrived: Criminals are leaving negative reviews on the Google business pages of restaurants, in an effort to extort digital gift cards.
From San Fran to NYC, restaurants across the country are being targeted – some of which even have Michelin stars. A bombardment of one-star reviews is followed by emails from a person that claims responsibility, and consequently demands a $75 Google Play gift card to take the ratings down. Scary stuff.
Google to the rescue?
The problem has become so widespread that law enforcement has now been called in. The police are urging restaurant owners to contact Google directly about the problem, as well as reporting it to the FBI and Federal Trade Commission. And now, well aware of this new scam, Google is in defense mode against the criminals. A spokesperson said: “Our policies clearly state reviews must be based on real experiences, and when we find policy violations, we take swift action ranging from content removal to account suspension and even litigation.”
But according to some of the affected restaurants, it’s not all too easy to get in touch with Google. One owner said that Google only removed the one-star ratings after she took to Twitter to complain, while others are still waiting for the tech giant to react at all. “It seems like we’re just sitting ducks,” said Julianna Yang, general manager of Sons & Daughters in San Francisco.
Some are calling it ‘business terrorism’, and who can blame them? Online reviews matter more than ever for the hospitality industry. Here’s hoping they can all catch a break soon. Remember: If you see your favorite hamburger joint with a one-star Google review, maybe take it with a pinch of salt.
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