Why You Should Beware Of Negative Google Restaurant Reviews

You're going to a restaurant you've never heard of, so what's the first thing you do? You look up the restaurant online and dig through reviews on Google or Yelp to see if it's even worth going to. At first glance, online reviews seem to be trustworthy, giving you a varied look at what actual, real people think about the food and service. But perhaps you shouldn't take all reviewers at face value, considering that not only does everyone have different experiences, but they may also be more sinister than they appear.

How could an online review about a restaurant be sinister? According to Business Insider, certain one-star reviews are part of an elaborate extortion scheme. "Reviewers" flood the restaurant's review page with one-star reviews detailing poor service or terrible food. In exchange for deleting these scathing reviews, the "reviewers" demand digital gift cards from the owners, such as one con artist in San Francisco brazenly demanding a $75 Google Play card from a restaurant owner. Engadget even reports that this type of scam was carried out by a supposed family from India, who were only extorting the restaurant owner because they desperately needed money for food.

How exactly can you tell the difference between a real review and an extortionist review?

Customers and business owners can help stop extortionists

Now, there's a pretty good chance most extortionists won't lay out their whole plan for everyone to see. They'd never say, "This review is fake, I'm just doing this to get money from this place." So how can you cut a real review from one that's just a smokescreen to blackmail someone? Google itself has even admitted there is no way to confirm or deny the contents of a review, so what can you do to help?

According to The Takeout, one way you can tell if a review is fake is simply by reading it. If something doesn't sound right or if it seems wildly incorrect, then there is a good chance it's fake. Just like a phishing e-mail, the review may be riddled with typos, misspellings, and simple errors, making it easy to identify that it's not the most solid of opinions. Once you identify a fake review, report it as soon as you can.

Business owners and customers alike can also work together to help eliminate extortion threats, explains Reputation.CA. Business owners should focus on taking care of customers to get good reviews — of course. But they must also focus on taking care of "fake reviews." This involves warning others that these reviews are scams, reporting the user to the proper authorities, or simply never engaging with the reviewer to prevent them from "catching you."

Scammers can also focus on other businesses as well, such as Costco and Whole Foods.