Fine Dining Lovers has reported that scammers based in India are blackmailing American Fine Dining restaurants to remove negative reviews which they have posted without ever having eaten there, in exchange for payment.
The publication quotes the New York Times that Top Restaurants are being awarded 1 out of 5 star reviews on Google, without photographs or a description, and the review writers never having eaten at the establishments.
The scammers demand a $75 Google Play gift card, in return for which they will remove the negative review. Should the restaurant refuse to send the gift card, they post more negative reviews.
The message sent to targeted Restaurants is as follows: ‘We sincerely apologise for our actions, and would not want to harm your business, but we have no other choice.’ The scammers add that the value of the gift card could provide for a family in India for weeks.
Despite struggling to reach Google to complain about the fake reviews and blackmail, the company has removed some of the negative restaurant reviews. Posting about it on Social Media has helped Restaurants get support too.
Restaurants that have retaliated by incorporating the scammers’ message into their review replies have received even stronger blackmail threats: ‘We can keep doing this indefinitely. Is $75 worth more to you than a loss to the business?’
As a restaurant review replier on behalf of clients, I have not seen this extortion happening in Cape Town.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide