The Tips Restaurants Need to Avoid Scammers and Extortionists

If restaurants didn’t already have enough to deal with during this pandemic, scheming scammers have cooked up an elaborate plot to target them with negative reviews.

According to CBS News, there’s been a wave of restaurants across the country getting hit with a series of one-star reviews on Google. The reason behind it? Scammers are hoping to extort money out of restaurant owners in exchange for not leaving these single-star reviews.

According to Barbara Castiglia, host of the podcast “Modern Restaurant Management,” restaurants are under attack once again.

This extortionist plot comes just on the heels of when many restaurants are finding their footing again after COVID-19 restrictions forced many into distress with a variety of different setbacks.

Castiglia said that aside from supply chain and staffing worries, the other “S” problem that restaurants now have to deal with is scammers. The scheme is targeting restaurants where they can retain and gain patronage.

“Extortionists are reaching out to restaurants and hitting them at their reputation. They’re telling them that they’re going to flood their Google reviews with one-star reviews, and just keep at these attacks unless they receive some kind of compensation,” said Castiglia.

And the scam is not specifically geared towards certain kinds of restaurants — it can be any type of eatery located anywhere, added Castiglia.

“It’s happening all across the nation — from five-star restaurants to just everywhere,” she said.

But restaurants can get ahead of scammers by ensuring that they follow a series of steps if they ever notice an influx of negative reviews. Remaining diligent about how their restaurant reviews are performing online is number one. Castiglia said that proper and daily monitoring will allow a restaurant owner or manager to pick up on “unusual activity.”

She also added that messages threatening to scam via text or email to a restaurant must be documented, kept, and immediately reported to authorities, as scamming is a criminal offense. With proof and documentation of said threats, it creates a paper trail to support a restaurant’s case.

But most importantly, it is key that restaurants do not send any money at all to a scammer. By making the error of sending a scammer money, Castiglia said that will only prolong the extortion plot.

Castiglia advises restaurants to counteract the negative reviews by being present on social media and letting their current and future customers know exactly what is going on. The outreach has often turned things around for restaurants that fell victim to one-star review scams, per Today. Usually, dedicated customers will show an outpour of support and can even reverse low rating reviews by creating an uptick in high rating reviews.

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