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Google One-star Review Scam Placing Local Restaurants And Businesses

Small businesses, especially those that only operate in one region, can live or die based on reputation. Lately, that same reputation has been targeted by scammers, as one-star reviews left on Google products require payment in gift cards to remove the reviews. If you own an affected business, Google is on the case.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that a one-star review scam has made its way to local businesses, particularly restaurants, with scammers leaving negative reviews on the business page on Google Maps or Search , then trying to extort the company to pay to have that review removed.

Google collects local user reviews for a variety of different businesses. These reviews appear through Maps, Search, and various other products. A business’s online reviews tend to have a strong influence on attracting new customers, so one-star reviews can be very detrimental to a local business. above all restaurants that these scammers seem to be targeting.

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As The New York Times Many of these one-star reviews on Google tend to come from India, where scammers demand a $75 Google Play gift card to remove the review, with the threat of more one-star reviews if the request is n is not satisfied. The threat, delivered via email, usually reads in part as follows:

We sincerely apologize for our actions and would not want to harm your business, but we have no other choice. The thing is, we live in India and see how else to survive. We urge you to send us a $75 Google Play Gift Card […] After selling this gift card, we can earn about $50, which is three weeks income for a family.

Using gift cards is a common choice for scammers because they are difficult to trace back to the source. Reviews themselves are also difficult to manage, as they cannot be prevented, deleted or hidden by the company itself. Getting rid of the review requires Google’s help, or paying the scammer, which The New York Times says law enforcement advises against.

Google has acknowledged this corporate scam practice with one-star reviews, saying it violates review policies. Google is working to remove reviews from affected businesses and is asking owners to report reviews.

We recently learned of a scam targeting businesses on Google with the threat of 1 star reviews unless they send money via gift cards. Our manifest make it clear that reviews should be based on real experiences, and our teams are working tirelessly to thwart these attacks, remove fraudulent reviews, and put protections on business profiles that may have been affected.

If your business is targeted by these scammers, please do not pay them. Instead, please report reviews here or contact Google Support via our Help Center, so that our team can review and remove content that violates the rules. If you haven’t claimed your Business Profile yet, you can. here.

As SearchEngineLand points out, however, that even Google faces an uphill battle here. The company removed five such scam reviews that hit a restaurant in Houston, Texas, but in the time it took Google to remove those reviews, seven new reviews appeared. SearchEngineLand also points out that Facebook commonly sees scams such as these, but is apparently much slower in removing reviews.

Needless to say, this is a horrible situation for businesses and restaurants, and we hope Google can work quickly to stop the scammers in their tracks.

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