How Restaurants Are Being Scammed For Gift Cards

Reviews can be a powerful thing when it comes to running a restaurant. Learning what diners liked, didn't like, or wanted to see more of can help propel the business forward and lead the restaurant to success. Many restaurant owners rely on customer reviews to understand their diners' wants while potential customers often rely on reviews to learn which restaurants they should go to. If a place has consistent low ratings, it may be a sign to stay away.

Internet scams can affect everyone by different tactics from inaccurate listings for purchasing items to threatening that something bad will happen if you do not provide the scammer with something of monetary value. A new scam is targeting restaurants by leaving negative reviews on Google then demanding a gift card to make the reviews stop. This forces restaurant owners to decide between a constant barrage of bad reviews or having to cough up some extra cash for a scammer.

Cash for a ceasefire?

This extortion scam targets independently-owned restaurants with the scammers threatening to leave one-star reviews, which could tank the restaurant's overall rating, reports Eater New York. The site states that the scammers threaten to leave one-star review on the restaurant's Google business page each day until its owners provide them with Google Play gift cards.

Restaurants across the country have been dealing with this issue from New York to Chicago to San Francisco, reports Eater. The Nightbird restaurant in San Francisco's Bay Area received ten one-star reviews the same morning that Chef Kim Alter saw the email, reports Eater San Francisco. In Chicago, Sochi Saigonese Kitchen has been bombarded with negative reviews since June 26, and its owners Chinh Pham and Son Do received the same email, per Eater Chicago.

Restaurant owners are reporting that Google Support does not see any policy violations in these reviews and when it did take down these reviews, it also wiped reviews from actual diners (via Eater San Francisco).