The Marketing Expert – dealing with scammers and extortion gangs on Google reviews

Shaz Memon reports on a new extortion method targeting dental practices’ Google reviews and how to deal with this.

I don’t need to explain how powerful Google reviews are. If your practice has lots of five-star patient reviews, this is a catalyst for consistent patient acquisition. And it’s an excellent way to build trust with your existing patients.

But unfortunately, spineless extortion gangs are currently targeting dental practices with a threat to ruin your reputation unless you pay up.

So my advice is simple: read the story below, keep your cool and do not engage with these people.

For some time now, I have had a real issue with Google and the lack of escalation available to fight unfair reviews. Digimax calls for fair online reviews

Most often, if you report a fake or mostly untrue review, the reply, if you even get a response, will read something like this: ‘This review does not violate our community guidelines.’

This leaves you with very few options. You can leave a witty reply or try to bury the review as deep down as possible by seeking more positive reviews. Neither solution is ideal.

Your public response to a fake or unfair review will often be to educate onlookers that the stated events are untrue and your practice operates to high standards. It would help if you also edged on caution. You can’t speak about specifics because you may also be breaking patient confidentiality.

Ultimately, one or two of these fake/untrue reviews is probably something you can brush off. Whereas if you become a target for these extortion gangs, it’s a different story.

One dentist’s experience

Day one, I landed back in the country. The first email I arrived to was the dentist in question seeking help in how to respond to a fake Google review.

I sent over my article and advised that they report the review in vain, hoping that Google might have improved its processes.

Day two, I received another email from the dentist saying that his practice was being targeted. I have heard this before too, and it usually amounts to a second negative Google review. Annoying to the practice, but not crippling.

However, this was different. There were several new negative reviews, some giving damning verdicts about the practice.

My advice was to directly contact Google and ask them to investigate the Google accounts writing these. Hopefully they can spot a trend here and have these reviews removed.

Day three, the dentist received the following message on Facebook:

Message to the practice

Hello,

Recently, you may have noticed that you have negative reviews on Google. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about – look at the reviews of your institution in Google Maps. You need it more than I do.

You should understand that such reviews have an extremely negative impact on the work of the business. New customers will not risk coming to you, old ones will think. So far, only a few reviews have been left. But if you don’t respond, there will be more. We will leave feedback until your score drops to 2.9. You will lose a lot of customers and money. It’s definitely not worth competing with us.

We offer you to get rid of this problem for a modest fee. Everything will be resolved quickly, peacefully and, if you think about it, not so expensive. You have three paths of development:

  • Pay us and live with peace of mind further. You will also improve the reputation of your institution, because good reviews may appear from bad reviews. Perfect for everyone
  • Try to block negative reviews with positive ones. The option seems to be optimal, but in fact you will unleash a war with us. For every positive review, two negative ones will appear. The longer you fight with us, the more expensive our ‘services’ will eventually cost you. Remember this
  • Contact Google technical support. Yes, you can do it by going through nine circles of hell. But this will not help you, we have studied Google’s algorithms perfectly and know how to bypass them. Even if you delete some of the reviews, more will appear
  • You can even contact the police, but I am perfectly familiar with the security system on the internet and I live on another continent. So, it’s unlikely to get me. You can pay us and report to the police at the same time, we won’t mind
  • Write that all negative reviews are cheating. Maybe someone will believe you, but most new customers don’t. And if they do, they will decide not to risk it. You will lose a huge share of customers and money.

Take into account one important factor, only under one circumstance will we lag behind your institution – if you pay for everything.

Leaving negative comments for us is not difficult and not for long. But you will lose customers every day.

The more you fight with us, the longer you ignore us, the more expensive it will be for you in the end. So far, the price of removing the negative is £400. But the more you persist, the more expensive it will be for you.

I’m sorry I have to do this to you, but I have no choice. My relative is sick and I have to go for it, because there is no other way to earn money in my country. You have a choice, but there is only one correct solution.

If you are not a manager, please send him this message.

You can contact us by mail or telegram. Communication via telegram is preferable, so your question is solved much faster.

Don’t give into blackmail

At this point, I knew we were dealing with someone who has carefully thought this through. They are preying on the passionate business owner who will do anything to protect their reputation.

Unfortunately, the predators’ perception of dentists and their income is somewhat inflated, making practices a perfect target for opportunists.

I advised the client, as I would advise anyone reading this, not to even participate in a conversation.

While £400 might sound like a small amount of money to make a problem like this disappear, the truth is there is nothing stopping them asking for £4,000 or £40,000 the next time.

In fact, by paying the money you are identifying yourself as someone who gives into blackmail. You open yourself up to further extortion attempts.

There is no end to this, so you don’t want to play their games. I believe eventually, this new-age business person will evaluate their time versus income ratio, and move on to a target who will play ball.

Result

Day four – client tries a few avenues and makes a report using these forms:

Day five – Google deletes the reviews!

Now, it’s not often I get to see Google move so fast. From this journey, it is evident that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we should not engage with anyone blackmailing.

Google also has algorithms in place that, after some time (usually weeks) auto-deletes reviews that are left from Gmail accounts that are inactive and only have the markers of an account that were created to leave a review.

Stay aware, don’t give in and don’t let them win.

And while you’re waiting for Google to act, I would recommend adding this message to your Google reviews as an interim measure:

‘*Google aware** this practice is being targeted by an extortion racket with multiple one to two-star targeted spam fake reviews. Please see any review prior to [insert date] for a genuine experience*’


Thank you to a dentist who I won’t name who stayed in touch with me and gave me permission to report his experience to help the community.

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