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Fourth small business hit by Facebook blackmailers carrying out ‘reputation attack’

PUBLISHED: 11:15 09 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:15 09 April 2020

D Whittle Plumbing and Heating pictured working at Lings. The plumbing company was hit by a reputation attack on Facebook after ignoring requests to pay scammers £199. Photo: D Whittle

D Whittle Plumbing and Heating pictured working at Lings. The plumbing company was hit by a reputation attack on Facebook after ignoring requests to pay scammers £199. Photo: D Whittle

D Whittle

Another Norfolk business has been targeted by blackmailers demanding money to stop them being flooded with bad online reviews.

Overnight 25 one star reviews were left on the Facebook page of D Whittle Plumbing and Heating. Photo: D Whittle/FacebookOvernight 25 one star reviews were left on the Facebook page of D Whittle Plumbing and Heating. Photo: D Whittle/Facebook

Declan Whittle, 22, who runs D Whittle Plumbing and Heating, is the fourth small business to come forward having been hit by Facebook scammers.

He was sent a message last week stating: “I would like to inform you that I have been paid to carry out a reputation attack on your company.

“This will be started on your Facebook page with 25 negative 1 star reviews. The attack will continue every day with an additional 25 negative reviews id you do not decide to pay the sum of £199”.

Mr Whittle, from Swanton Morley, ignored the message but the next day he found the scammers had carried out the reputation attack.

He had 25 new one-star reviews on his Facebook page all placed between 3am and 4am on Saturday.

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None of the reviewers left any comment, but that afternoon he was sent another message from someone calling themselves “John Smith” asking him if he would now pay for the reviews to be removed.

“I didn’t think anything of it,” he said “But then I saw an article on the EDP about other firms getting the same messages that I had.

“Nobody is at work at the moment, but it doesn’t look good. Before this I had an average of five stars, so it is really not ideal.”

Estate agent Jamie Minors, who runs Minors & Brady, was also targeted by the same reputation attack.

Mr Minors also ignored the message – and awoke the next day to a series of bad recommendations on his business’s Facebook page.

Two Norwich firms, Independent Mortgages and Financial Solutions on King Street, and Cary’s Flowers on Norwich Market were also hit.

“In tough times of coronavirus and with small businesses like us trying to survive, it’s a tough one for morale and energy,” Mr Minors said.

“Luckily, we posted about it and the support from people has been incredibly overwhelming, with hundreds liking, reviewing our page, and sending words of encouragement throughout these tough times. We’re not going to pay out of principle.”


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