WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A new scam affecting restaurants nationwide has made its way to Kansas.

The Monarch in Wichita’s Delano district is the first known restaurant in the Sunflower state to be affected by scammers saying they will leave bad reviews unless they are compensated.

Jennifer Ray, the Monarch’s owner, said she was concerned when she got two threatening emails last week.

“This is the first time that I’ve had to deal with something like this. So it was it’s scary,” said Ray. 

Scammers are sending threatening emails to restaurants demanding payment in the form of gift cards or crypto in return for not bombarding the establishments’ social accounts with dozens of 1-star reviews. 

“Everything that anyone says about us online is super impactful. Obviously, we’ve worked really hard to maintain a really great reputation here in town and to see that get threatened really it really is worrisome,” added Ray.

Bill Ramsay is a technology expert. He says it’s only a matter of time before this starts happening to other businesses.

“They’ve got a multitude of hacked accounts that they’re using to go in and create these reviews,” mentioned Ramsay. 

So what defense do local establishments have?

“If these crooks are fulfilling their promises, and it looks like they actually have in several cases, you’re gonna have to combat the report the reviews, and then send a copy of what you’re getting showing that ‘hey, I was threatened and with one-star reviews and now this is what’s going on,'” continued Ramsay.  

Ray said the swindlers have given her until Aug. 1 to pay up, but she says that won’t do any good. 

“I think, at this point, we’re just going to have to wait and see,” mentioned Ray.

She has hired a local reputation management company to monitor reviews around the clock.

“I am confident that while this may be a hassle in the short term, overall, we’ll get it taken care of,” concluded Ray. 

The Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association said it has warned its members of this scam and is working to see if anyone else in Kansas has been affected.