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Investigation found foreigners leaving positive reviews for places they had never been

Regulators in New York are expected to announce today one of the most comprehensive crackdowns on fake Internet reviews posted by companies online. The New York Times reports that agreements have been reached between the state of New York and 19 companies that will see them stop any misleading practices and pay a total of $350,000 in penalties.

The NYT reports that the investigation has lasted a year and has included companies that create fake reviews. Among the companies that are signing agreements include a charter bus operator, a teeth whitening service, laser hair removal chain, and an adult entertainment club. None of the companies were specifically named.

All the companies involved have placed fraudulent reviews on websites such as Google, Yahoo, Yahoo, and CitySearch. The investigation allegedly uncovered services posting fake reviews that have good a more significant impact on the life of duped users including fake reviews for dentists, lawyers, and an ultrasound clinic.

“What we’ve found is even worse than old-fashioned false advertising,” said Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general. “When you look at a billboard, you can tell it’s a paid advertisement — but on Yelp or Citysearch, you assume you’re reading authentic consumer opinions, making this practice even more deceiving.”

Investigators posed as the owner of a yogurt shop in Brooklyn who claimed to be the victim of unfair online reviews. A reputation management firm was hired and investigators discovered foreign persons were leaving positive reviews for places they never been in countries that have never traveled to. The investigation found that these favorable reviews could be purchased for as little as one dollar each.

The investigation also found that companies charged with getting good reviews for clients also bribed customers to give good reviews with things such as $50 gift certificates. This investigation was specifically focused on New York, but could have wider implications around the country.

"This shows that fake reviews are a legitimate target of law enforcement,” said Aaron Schur, senior litigation counsel for Yelp.

Source: NYT

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RE: surprised?
By EricMartello on 9/27/2013 8:45:40 PM , Rating: 2
You have no idea. And the business owners all do the same, they talk about posting good reviews to drown out the bad ones. In many cases it's their entire online strategy.

Actually I do have an idea and it works exceptionally well, that's why anyone who isn't doing it is going to be out of business sooner than they can say "fraudulent adwords clicks".

It's so funny that the article makes it sound like it's a small problem and that most reviews are trustworthy. Couldn't be further from the truth. And half the time the bad reviews are made by competitors to trash the competition.

Also 100% true. Some "firms" do this better than others by recruiting "fanboys" for one product to bash the competing products.

These unscrupulous techniques are also used heavily by politicians. Obama's "organizing for action" group took social engineering through "user generated media" to a whole new level - getting him elected twice (arguably his only two accomplishments).

People don't realize that they're not getting "the truth" by relying on some anonymous user review or some blog site that claims to have the inside scoop "that you won't hear on TV or radio". The internet's freedom and openness has left it vulnerable to abuse.

My advice: don't trust ANY user generated reviews, or take them with a grain of salt. Even on sites like NewEgg it's happening more and more. The problem is HUGE, not small.

Actually, with Newegg, it's nothing new. They skyrocketed to their current position almost entirely by using fake reviews (on their own website) and also by having an army of employees frequently recommend buying computer products at newegg via posts on message forums.

It is unfortunate that most forum moderators do not consider linking to products on newegg a form of spam...yet if someone posts a link to another shop, the same newegg spammers cry "spam" and demand that user be banned or at least have the posts removed.

Make no mistake about it, Newegg didn't get to where it is today by playing nice and following the rules.

RE: surprised?
By othercents on 9/30/2013 4:48:00 PM , Rating: 2
Fake reviews are why you read them. Typically places trying to give bad reviews or good reviews will choose the best or worst review options. If look at the middle of the road reviews you will typically get better information about the establishment.

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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