GGRA Offers Guidance to SF Restaurants amid Scam
Recently, restaurants in San Francisco and in cities nationwide have been targeted by scammers who give them repeated one-star Google reviews, saying they won’t remove them until they receive a $75 Google Play gift card.
The SFPD has cautioned the community about the scam and reports on it have been done by Eater, the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times and other media outlets. Concurrently, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) has issued helpful guidance to restaurants about how to best handle the scam.
In a July 15 statement, the GGRA said it has been in contact with Google SF about the issue and that they are working to rectify it. GGRA said it requested that Google SF “set up a mechanism to review and remove these clearly fraudulent one star reviews.”
GGRA said that—as of July 14—it has confirmed that numerous local restaurants that were targeted by the fraudulent one-star reviews have had them removed. The association went on to recommend that restaurants “continue monitoring their Google reviews and…flag any one star reviews that look fraudulent,” which can be done via their Google business page. “We are hoping Google can proactively prevent this going forward,” stated GGRA.
In the meantime, the GGRA offered this guidance to San Francisco restaurants for handling the scam:
Do not panic, scammers take advantage of panicked reactions.
Document everything (i.e., don’t delete the emails or any contact you might receive from the scammer).
Talk to your peers to find out if this action is widespread or targeted and post to social media to draw attention to the behavior and alert your customers.
If you have time, and the inclination, you can respond publicly to the reviews so potential customers see them for what you know they are. One example:
We are being targeted by a blackmailer named Thư Nguyễn
<firstname.lastname@example.org> who is demanding google play gift cards (email@example.com)
to stop spamming us with fake 1 star reviews. We have contacted the police in
their home country, but are waiting for Google to remove the reviews which
takes a while. While this is bringing down our review rating, we will not give
in to blackmail. Please help us by flagging this review as spam.
the Canela Team
If this is a review scam, report the review and issue to the company where it is posted (i.e., flagging the reviews as spam/fraudulent with Google using your business page support links).
Report to appropriate authorities. A recent NYT piece suggested: Law enforcement officials have urged restaurant owners to contact Google if they’ve been
targeted, and to report these crimes to their local police departments, as well as the F.B.I. and the Federal Trade Commission. The commission advises businesses not pay scammers. Contact the SFPD’s non-emergency line at 415-553-0123.
GGRA stated in its communication that its members that are still being targeted by the one-star Google reviews can contact firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com and they will work with Google to address the issue. Again, see the above paragraph to contact the proper authorities.