Fake Online Review Crackdown Leaves 19 Companies Paying $350,000 in Fines
September 24, 2013 7:12 AM
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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.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
10/11/2013 3:29:45 PM
I think the worst part is that the government has to waste resources dealing with this rather than with other serious problems.
So if these people think this is a victim-less white collar crime then maybe they should do a few hundred hours of community service in addition to the fines.
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