Service of Responding at Your Peril

July 21st, 2022

Categories: Extortion, Restaurant, Scams, Social Media

Hardly a week goes by without a new con to entice recipients to respond to a phone call, text, email or fake ad on a social media platform.

Just this week I got a text from “PayPals [sic] Service.” It started:  “We have restricted your account.” Since when did PayPal add an S to its name?

In the last few months I noticed stalkers on Facebook not where you’d expect them–asking to be your friend the old fashioned way–but in comments. When a woman placed a comment to a post the stalker-stranger would not address the topic or the remark but instead would introduce himself and invite the woman to connect.

For a long while we’ve received emails and texts announcing “your order has been processed” when there’s been none or “thank you for renewing your membership to Geeksquad” to a nonmember. And then there’s a warning that my friend shared about a purchase on her Amazon account. She doesn’t have one and she added “Sadly many naive people would push #1 as instructed. Not me!”

She mentioned an email allegedly from Yahoo asking her to confirm her email address or she’d stop getting emails within 48 hours. “There was none of the usual verbiage from Yahoo so I knew it was a scam,” she said. “Plus they’d never only give you 48 hours for any change. But makes me sick when I think of how many people fell for it.”

I was distressed reading Christina Morales’s story “Restaurants Face an Extortion Threat: A Bad Rating on Google.” In The New York Times she reported: “In a new scam targeting restaurants, criminals are leaving negative ratings on restaurants’ Google pages as a bargaining chip to extort digital gift cards.” The one star ratings–the worst you can get–feature neither photos nor descriptions and the writers haven’t been to the restaurants, some of which have Michelin stars. The scammers request $75 Google Play gift cards to remove the review.

From California to New York, the emails were the same wrote Morales: “We sincerely apologize for our actions, and would not want to harm your business but we have no other choice.” She continued: “The email went on to say that the sender lives in India and that the resale value of the gift card could provide several weeks of income for the sender’s family. The emails, from several Gmail accounts, requested payment to a Proton mail account.”

Google removed some but not all of the bad ratings. A spokesperson said the company is looking into the reviews and removed those that violated policy which states you must have been to the place you review. If not, the writer faces account suspension and/or litigation.

It’s not that easy to contact Google although “Law enforcement officials have urged” the restaurants to do so as well as to notify local police, F.B.I. and the FTC. “The commission advises businesses not to pay the scammers,” she wrote.

The takeaway for those who check out restaurant ratings is to discount any that come with no photos or descriptions.

Have you noticed any new scams attempting to trick you into playing ball? If a restaurant has mostly good reviews and one bad one do you discount it, assume it might be written by the competition or a nut or do you take it seriously?

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6 Responses to “Service of Responding at Your Peril”

  1. Helen Said:

    Oh my god yes. PayPal in particular. I forward anything strange to my computer genius daughter and let her tell me yes or no and Lisa always says it’s a scam!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Helen,

    I don’t have such a daughter but I have been known to call my bank or credit card company to confirm that they have NOT sent me something. Often silly spelling errors or awkward sentence structure give scammers away but they are able to copy the logos expertly which can be deceiving.

  3. Hank Goldman Said:

    This is a great warning. People should heed your advice and BE CAREFUL!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    I no sooner published this post when I came upon another scam on Facebook. The image was of a stunning summer blouse. I googled the company and couldn’t find it! Doubt it exists. The other clue: The descriptive copy was clumsy and peculiar.

  5. lucrezia Said:

    New scams by the ton have been littering the mailbox, including uninvited sex sites. Another entity tries to squeeze the pocketbook by making spicy allegations. I have no time to respond. The trashcan is full. It reaches the point that there are better things to do as opposed to wasting time. There are flocks out there waiting to be fleeced. Sad, isn’t it?

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    This afternoon a fake charity asked me to confirm my email by clicking the link in the email. The charity isn’t on google. “By the ton” is, unfortunately, all too accurate.

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