A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Is that restaurant review even real? BBB offers tips to help consumers spot fake negative reviews

Thinking about trying a new place? The recent comments section may leave patrons wondering if they should venture out after seeing bad reviews and one-star ratings. Restaurant owners would like customers to know not all of those reviews are real.

Scammers dealing in fake negative reviews are an increasing threat to the restaurant industry, already struggling with supply chain issues, a potential recession, and recovery from a pandemic.

The scam works like this: fake bad reviews are posted on Google and other sites. Restaurant owners are then contacted via untraceable email accounts to pay a ransom with a Google Play gift card — otherwise more negative reviews will be posted daily. Federal officials as well as Google are investigating the situation.

BBB offers tips on how to spot fake reviews and what to do if restaurant owners are affected by this scam:

• Report fake reviews. Most platforms allow reporting of abusive behavior. Doing so can help the platform eliminate fake reviews faster. Also, contact the Federal Trade Commission and BBB.org/scamtracker.

• Post a message to patrons. Explain the situation and disclose how you are addressing it.

• Consider a tool for spotting fake reviews. Research third-party tools available to help weed out fake reviews.

Find other business tips on BBB.org.

BBB of Cincinnati

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