Restaurants in the United States are being targeted by a coordinated extortion campaign

Are you one of those people who choose a restaurant based on the number of stars? This scoring system is not without obstacles…and cheaters. In yet another cyber fraud attempt, restaurants in the United States have been targeted by a coordinated extortion campaign in recent weeks. Anonymously, individuals leave negative reviews on restaurant Google pages as a bargaining chip to snag digital gift cards.

From San Francisco to New York, many famous Michelin-starred restaurants reported receiving a one-star rating on Google, without descriptions or photos, from people who hadn’t eaten at their restaurants. Report it The New York Times.

The Method of action Always the same: Restaurants get a barrage of one-star reviews on Google. After a while, owners will receive an email from someone asking for a $75 Google Play gift card to remove the reviews or the bad ratings will continue.

According to the American newspaper, the message is always the same: “We sincerely apologize for our actions and do not want to harm your business, but we had no choice”.

The email states that the sender lives in India and that the resale value of the gift card will provide his family with several weeks of income.

On Friday, Google issued a notice in response to several complaints from restaurants Google Business Help Forum He indicated that he was aware of the issue and would take action.

“Our policies are clear that reviews must be based on real experiences, and our teams are working around the clock to prevent these attacks, remove fraudulent reviews, and put security on affected business profiles,” the statement said. It asks restaurant owners not to pay scammers and instead seek help from Google.

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No coordinated attacks in Quebec

Until now, the Association for the Restoration of Quebec (ARQ) had never heard of such a concerted extortion campaign. Rather, it reports more or less recent cases of individuals holding certain restaurants’ Google Business accounts temporarily closing them, in exchange for a fee.

In other cases, customers use the Google rating system to get a refund for food. However, there is no question of the integrated approaches we see in the United States, explains Martin Vezina, vice president of public and government affairs for ARQ.

Mr. According to Vezina, the Google rating system is important because “some customers make decisions based on these reviews” and such concerted attacks can lower a restaurant’s overall average.

An establishment that is not yet sufficiently known can be severely affected, he adds.

In such situations, “we advise our members not to respond to the demand and customers not to trust the stars anymore,” said Mr. Vezina explains. He believes the rating process means nothing if Google doesn’t fix it.

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