Saturday 10/15/22 – The Fake 1 Star Reviews Started
It’s 9:30am on a Saturday, and all I wanted to do was sleep in. Little did I know that the online world had different plans for me.
I rolled over and looked at my emails. There were a bunch of notifications from google:
“Tantu Left a Review for One Click Inc”
“Jong Left a Review for One Click Inc”
“Michael Left a Review for One Click Inc”
… and the list went on, about 15 total reviews all 1 star with some pretty bad things to say.
Of course, none of these people are in our customer database and the reviews left were all 1-2 sentences saying pretty nasty, yet generic things about us.
We looked at the profiles of these reviewers. A lot of them had a decent amount of reviews, however, you can tell this person was not living in Wisconsin (where most of our customer base is at this point). A lot of the reviews these people had (if their profile was displaying them) were from other countries. A majority of these profiles were recently created (within a few months).
Our star review ranking tanked from a 4.8 to a 4.2, and we are honestly worried that this attack isn’t over.
In the past, we have seen clients (and ourselves) get attacked by the occasional spam 1 star review, we have never seen this kind of attack before.
Are Fake Review Scammers behind this?
Doing further research, we discovered this is somewhat of a new kind of attack. Although we have not received a letter or message yet, we have suspicions that this is a kind of ransom attack where the scammer will ask for money to stop the attack. Search Engine Journal reported seeing this kind of attack back in July that went after restaurants primarily, but other industries have been targeted as well.
Google is aware of this issue and told people not to pay these scammers and to flag the reviews for removal.
I’m hoping in the future Google will develop an algorithm for this because this is extremely detrimental to businesses around the globe.
What we have done so far:
The first step for this kind of attack is to flag the reviews and call them to google’s attention for removal.
We did this by logging into our Google Business Profile account, looking at the reviews and selecting the three dots on the right-hand side of the review, and clicking “report review”. We selected “spam” as the reason for reporting.
From there, we received an email from google saying that they have received our request and are assessing this request.
We also responded to those reviews so prospective customers know these are spam reviews that we have reported to Google.
I’m hoping that’s all we need to do to remedy the situation, however, I will continue to update this blog with what we needed to do to get those removed.
As of right now, I’m not seeing any new reviews come in.
UPDATE: We noticed one of our clients received this kind of attack as well. We followed the same procedure as above.
We noticed google had removed 7 of the 15 reviews that we flagged. Our ratings have gone from a 4.2 to a 4.5.
I will re-visit this on Monday to see if the rest are removed.
Google removed some, but not all of the review spam in our client’s as well.
It’s Monday, and I was hoping to see all of the reviews removed, however, there were still 8 reviews that were not removed.
Worried that google rejected my requests, I found a way to see the status of the removal requests:
To view the status of your 1 star review requests, follow these instructions:
- Go to this page and log in using the same email you use to manage your Google Business Profile Account: https://support.google.com/business/workflow/9945796
- From there, select on the business that you requested the reviews to be removed from and click “continue”
- Select “Check the status of a review I reported previously” to view the reviews you reported
- If you’d like to report additional reviews, you can select “report a new review for removal” this is pretty slick!
- From here, you can view the status of the review requests.
Right now, they are all pending for me. Hoping I get an approval for both of the accounts affected soon!!
Google had taken down all of our fake spam reviews (except 1 that was a 5 star but negative things to say about us) the night before, but this morning, I was lerted to another attack. This time about 12.
I went and reported these again to google…I’m awaiting the ransom letter.
At this point in time, I’m glad google is taking the reviews off, however, the star rating going down so quickly I think does affect what people think. I think one way google can combat this is if they see a bunch of negative stars at once, they delay the rating change for a few days while the Google Profile owner remedies the situation.
The dreaded denial of removal.
Google removed some of the reviews but not all, and rejected my request because the review was not found in violation of their policies. Luckily, I had screenshots of previous reviews, and this review was a duplicate of another one they already took down.
To appeal the decision:
- Go here: https://support.google.com/business/workflow/9945796
- follow the propts and select the business in question.
- Select the option “check the status of a review I reported Previously”
- If there are reviews that have been denied removal, there will be an option on the bottom of that list to appeal the decision.
- Select the reviews you’d like to appeal
- Fill out the form.
- Make sure where it asks you what policy this violated, make sure you choose an exact option from this list: https://support.google.com/contributionpolicy/answer/7400114. I chose “fake engagement”
- Make sure when you write the appeal message that you use information that can help them decide to remove the review. If this is part of a spam attack, let google know how many reviews you got and in what timeframe, and send them any screenshots of similar reviews (a lot of these spam ones will use the same review over again).
- Submit the appeal
Luckily, I was able to get those 2 denied requests appealed and they took the reviews off! I had a screenshot of a different profile saying the same exact review, so I think that was enough to convince them.
Today, as of 10:40am, all reviews have been removed on 1 profile, and 2 are still pending a decision on the other.
All reviews have been removed!
Its been 10 days and no other spam reviews have shown on either profiles. We have received legitimate reviews, so either the spammers decided we weren’t worth going after or Google is working on a fix for this!