Fake Reviews Are Illegal

 Image courtesy of  Geek Times

Image courtesy of Geek Times

False Advertising

People can get reviews for hotels, restaurants, lawyers, etc. The more reviews become apparent, the more that potential customers use and rely on them. Talk is cheap, and it's a helpful  marketing tool for businesses. However, some of that talk might actually be coming from the business itself.

Operation Clean Turf

A year-long investigation ceased 19 fake review writing companies. They posted on review sites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. The companies were also fined $350,000.

The companies hired freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review.
— New York State Attorney General

 

The companies created fake online profiles on the review websites, and the companies violated many state laws along with engaging in illegal & deceptive business practices.

Business Owners Looking For Fake Reviews

During the investigation, it was also noted how business owners would post on classifieds such as Craigslist looking to pay others to write fake reviews. Especially 'experts' to pass filters. Most review sites now have filters to detect which are real and which are not. Yelp has the strongest filter by far.

I need someone who is a YELP expert to post positive reviews for a spa that will not be filtered using legitimate existing yelp accounts must have at least 10 friends on Yelp. Please be a yelp expert!! I will pay $10 per-review after 3 days they must meet the criteria above.
— New York City spa owner looking to pay for fake reviews

One of the 19 companies that was charged, an SEO company, also made a few posts on classifieds as well. They were looking for potential job seekers, of course!

We need a person that can post multiple positive reviews on major REVIEW sites. Example: Google Maps, Yelp, CitySearch. Must be from different IP addresses… So you must be able to have multiple IPs. The reviews will be only few sentences long. Need to have some understanding on how Yelp filters works. Previous experience is a plus…just apply —)we are a marketing company.
— SEO Company's job listing on classifieds

Well, it's a marketing company, so the job should totally be free from any legalities!

Read More
A.G. Schneiderman Announces Agreement With 19 Companies To Stop Writing Fake Online Reviews And Pay More Than $350,000 In Fines

Reputation Management

Reviews can be critical for a company's reputation. The more people rely on reviews for information, then the more companies rely on getting them.

 Image courtesy of  Hometown Roofing Contractors

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Firms need to be aware of what their marketing managers are doing because not everyone knows that leaving false reviews is illegal.
— Whitney Gibson, Internet defamation specialist

Companies will either post fake glowing reviews themselves or hire a company to write them. The funny thing with hiring a fake review writing company is that businesses think they won't be held liable when they're caught simply because they didn't know how the hired company does the deed.

Hmm... That's like me hiring a hit man; however, since I did not ask how they were going to conduct the fatality, I won't be held responsible! :D

You Learn Something New Everyday

Of course we all know murder is illegal, but what these companies don't know is that fake reviews are illegal. So, when they pay for these type of services, they are participating in fraudulent activities relating to false advertising -- on their behalf.

Fake Negative Reviews

There are occupations in the cyber world dedicated for those to seek out fake online reviews. Especially the negative ones. 

It tends to be more outrageous than what someone would actually write. That’s one indication. The other is that you start to see patterns of screen names. You can look at a post, say I use MaryDoe as my screen name, and you look at all her posts and see a pattern of her attacking competitor companies.
— Brian Anderson, cyber investigator

I know you and I have seen fake harsh reviews for businesses on Yelp and such. Most of the time if they're really being malicious, I'm just sitting there like, 'Sounds like a personal, bro.' 

The funny thing about negative reviews is that majority of the time they know who wrote it. It can be a pissed off former employee, jealous competitor, enemies of the owner or employees, etc. 

Users can report a fake review along with why they think it's fake. If it's still up, that's when legal teams invade & conquer.

Generally, about 85 percent of the time when we (investigators) approach someone, they stop.
— Brian Anderson, cyber investigator

The Straw That Broke the Camel's Back

I used to be a party hostess for tourists, and our boss was literally on our ass about reviews, reviews, reviews. We busted our ass trying to convince drunk, unconsciously aware, hyper tourists to please review (remember) us on a popular review site before dumping them on Bourbon Street. Then, the following day, my co-workers and I would send a follow-up email as well to please review us! 

Our efforts failed, and boss was still sending his nasty emails about lack of reviews. So, you know what? My co-workers and I just wrote fake reviews ourselves. We even got friends & family to help. Fuck it. 

But oh no, the review site got all suspicious. Now, boss was on our ass about fraudulent reviews. I was done. I was so done!

I remember I was at a funeral, and I excused myself to go to the bathroom to relieve myself from the throes of this purgatory. I created a new email with the subject The Straw That Broke the Camel's Back (I blind carbon copied my co-workers btw) and I told boss deuces. My co-workers texted me with their laughing hard emojis and in all caps about the hilarity of my departure. Boss never responded; however, I still talk to my former co-workers to this day. 

2 False Positives

I had two fake reviews on The Erotic Review. I reported them, but nothing happened, of course! Just because they were positive, didn't mean I was going to leave them up. Like bro, if I didn't meet you, I didn't meet you! I read somewhere that TER, along with many agencies, do in fact write reviews themselves. Not surprising. At all. 

Perception

Anyways, the whole review system in general, with all businesses, is subjective. They can be used as a general idea of certain expectations for a service or product. There's also two sides to a story, especially with service reviews. Checking reviews on other websites helps too. Consumers could also look more at the company themselves. Look at how the business responds to negative feedback, or do they even respond at all? Do they engage with their fans on their social media? Also, on social media, do they bring awareness to any social or current issues via philanthropy? There's more ways, but ultimately, it's all on your perception and your choice. 


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Review Skeptic