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Cybercrime Wreaks Havoc on Restaurants

Specialty Food Association

Fake one-star restaurant reviews posted on Google and followed by emails asking for payment to have the post taken down have affected dozens of restaurants across the U.S., ranging from humble shops to Michelin star venues, reports The New York Times.

The attackers in question often post the review without a description or photo, never having eaten at the restaurant. Many owners report these messages are later used as leverage for the attacker to extort Google Play gift cards that can be later resold.

One such email reads, “We sincerely apologize for our actions, and would not want to harm your business but we have no other choice,” going on to chronicle that the sender lives in India, and the resale value of the gift card can provide several weeks of income, according to the report.

A spokesperson from Google Maps is clear about the consequences of these actions, saying, “Our policies clearly state reviews must be based on real experiences, and when we find policy violations, we take swift action ranging from content removal to account suspension and even litigation.” Despite this firm stance, restaurant owners have struggled to quell the influx of negativity, either because Google has not yet acted on them, or because they don’t end up viewing a fake review as a violation of its policies.

Law enforcement has told owners to contact Google if targeted, and to report the crime to local police departments, the F.B.I., and the Federal Trade Commission, also emphasizing not to pay the scammers.

Bad reviews can have fatal consequences for a foodservice business already suffering from the aftermath of the pandemic, coupled with record-breaking inflation percentages, and supply chain issues.

Steve Soble, the owner of Roux, an all-day breakfast café and diner in Chicago, told The New York Times, “These are business terrorists…and I hope it ends before it starts to damage our business.” Full Story 

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