Houston-area restaurant owners say scammers are asking for money to remove one-star ratings

ByDerrick Lewis via KTRK logo
Thursday, July 14, 2022
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Business owners say that scammers are asking for money in exchange for putting a stop to spamming one-star reviews.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Restaurant owners said they are getting scammed after receiving dozens of one-star reviews in just a matter of days.

They said it's hurting their businesses. It's happening to several restaurants around the Houston area.

Their ratings drop, which could make people want to eat somewhere else.

Chef Aaron Bludorn said he saw Google ratings for his restaurant, Bludorn, drop quickly within days.

"We noticed about a week ago that we started getting one-star reviews with no comments on them," Bludorn said. "It was a little strange, but it was very consistent."

Bludorn said he received about 30 of them, and then an email.

"We did receive an email from the individuals operating this scam and they were asking for $75 to take down the reviews and not continue," Bludorn said.

Bludorn said he didn't pay.

"We had no idea when this would end," Bludorn said. "We thought, is this just the start of it then? Because once they know we're good for it, they'd keep it going."

Wanting to get the ratings removed, he reached out to Google.

"Unfortunately, (Google) responded and told us that these reviews were fine with them," Bludorn said.

Google sent ABC13 a statement, saying in part, "Our team is actively investigating this situation and has already begun removing cases of policy-violating content."

The company says reviews must be based on real experiences and that they monitor fraudulent content.

Bludorn said the low ratings impact the restaurant industry and hopes it stops.

"I was a little disheartened that there are other people in the world that are willing to cut us down for their own gain and we couldn't do anything about it," he said.