Restaurants up and down the country have been warned look out for a fake reviewer posing as a media executive in order to obtain free meals.
The would-be reviewer is already thought to have approached several restaurants as far apart as Edinburgh and London in their bid to bag a freebie.
The alarm was raised by Jessica Sneddon of PR firm Charlotte and Joseph after she smelled a rat when one of her Edinburgh clients was contacted by the suspected scammer.
In an email to the restaurant, passed on to Sneddon, a man going by the name of Dan Reynolds and claiming to work for a company called DR Media said he was putting together an Edinburgh luxury travel guide for what he said was one of the company's magazine titles, Shanghai Travellers' Club.
He continued: "Our travel editor and a guest has a spot to visit the restaurant next month. We would appreciate perhaps if in return you could offer complimentary meal and beverage? I will then ASAP send you a relevant paperwork."
However, Sneddon established through her investigations that DR Media does not in fact own Shanghai Travellers' Club, a bona fide publication, at all. The magazine's real publisher, Pierre Gervois, confirmed that "Dan" was in fact an impostor who was using the magazine's name falsely in order to obtain free meals, and was sometimes also known to go by the name "Don".
It is thought that "Dan", or "Don", has already successfully scammed a number of London restaurants via similar requests to their PR companies.
Warning other restaurants to be vigilant, Sneddon said: "In the first instance he looked quite genuine and there was a media pack attached so we contacted him for a bit more information. Usually press come back to you fairly quickly if they are looking to review for a publication, but after we followed up with him and heard nothing back I looked up his company DR Media Group to see if there was a phone number on his website.
"However a quick Google search took me to a completely different site saying DR Media had moved. I then looked up a copy of the magazine which was available online and there was no connection to DR Media and his name was not on the list of editors or contributors. By this time I had definitely smelled a rat. As he claimed he was booking for the travel editor I decided to contact the magazine directly which I did and 10 minutes later I received a phone call from the magazine's CEO in New York to say it was fraudulent and that it was not the first time it had happened. Scams like this aren't always obvious and he had clearly gone to some lengths to look convincing."
The advent of bloggers has made it harder for restaurants to differentiate between genuine reviewers, some of whom are offered complimentary meals in exchange for their review (with the more respectable ones declaring that they ate for free), and those who pose as reviewers simply in order to eat at the restaurant's expense. The better known national newspaper reviewers, such as the Observer's Jay Rayner and the Sunday Times's AA Gill, are scrupulous about paying their own way.
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