SAN FRANCISCO—San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón warned the public on Thursday, August 16 about a recent email extortion scam that is impacting San Francisco restaurants. In the email, the scammers threaten to spread false and negative information about restaurants unless their owners pay them money.

“Using threatening emails and coercive measures to extort money from small business owners and local restaurants is egregious,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “An effective strategy for preventing these scams is helping potential targets identify and avoid them before they can even occur.”

In a press release sent to the San Francisco News, scammers attempt to intimidate restaurant owners with false and damaging reviews to extort money from them. During one incident, a scammer used a negative press release as part of their cyber extortion ploy. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office is working in collaboration with The Golden Gate Restaurant Association to raise awareness about such scams.

“Unfortunately we live in an era where internet extortion, fake bills, and phishing scams targeting small business owners are common,” said Gwyneth Borden, the Executive Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. “At the GGRA, we make it our mission to help identify these pain points, alert the community, and provide solutions for avoiding scams and we are grateful to the District Attorney’s Office for bringing broader attention to this critical issue.”

Coercive emails and cyber extortion schemes are a criminal offense. While some of the victims of these scams are based in San Francisco, scammers are operating from beyond the jurisdiction. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office is reminding the public that small business owners and local restaurants in San Francisco should be alert of extortion emails.

Anyone who suspects they are a victim of an email extortion scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) immediately. Contact the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office’s Consumer Mediation Hotline at (415) 551-9595 or the San Francisco Police Department for additional questions or concerns.