More On Fake Online Reviews – More Common Than Thought

In another blog we talked about the sting operation conducted by the New York Attorney General’s office that nabbed 19 companies engaged in posting fake reviews of businesses online. This situation may be far more pervasive than ever imagined.

As online reviews increase, the need for trying to detect the fake ones is ongoing and also increasing.

fake online reviews
Some prominent review sites are purportedly programmed to automatically send suspicious review posts to law enforcement agencies in an attempt to combat this rising tide of internet fraud.

And it is fraudulent, because it is false advertising. Fake online reviews can paint a very positive picture of a company or enterprise in the minds of viewers reading these “reviews.” And even if the company deserves positive reviews, people posting fake ones who have never patronized the company they are reviewing are still engaging in fraudulent misrepresentation.

I personally have been “stung” by an online review.  A couple of years ago, I read the very favorable reviews of a certain restaurant located on the beaches near where I live, and decided to give it a try.

What a disappointment. The food was terrible, the service was lousy, and the restroom was a mess.  Fact.

Fake Negative Online Reviews Are On the Rise

Fake negative reviews can be used to denigrate legitimate companies or enterprises. These could be posted simply out of malicious intent by a disgruntled former employee or prankster, or knowingly posted by companies or individuals trying to downgrade the image of a competitor.  I have even heard rumors that some review sites didn’t mind negative reviews because they seem more legitimate to their viewers.  I have no way of verifying that rumor, but one wonders…

To me at least, false negative reviews of an otherwise good, legitimate enterprise are a much more serious situation than false positive reviews, although both are reprehensible.  Negative reviews can really impact a business’s income and reputation.

It’s sometimes hard for an enterprise to combat this “black PR’ as the source of it is often hidden, especially if the source is engaging in astroturfing, which we touched on in our last blog.

fake online reviewsTo quote from an article appearing on September 25, 2013 in the online version of the Boston Globe titled, “Review Websites Try to Thwart False Customer Ratings” …”The majority of online reviews are positive, but several analysts note that the number of negative fake reviews aimed at competitors is on the rise. Unfavorable ones are more likely to escape detection, according to the British online reputation management company KwikChex, because fraud detection systems are geared toward fake positive reviews.”

More and more people are beginning to view online reviews with a grain of salt or outright cynicism.  Can you blame them?  Given this, you have to wonder about the future of sites whose main specialty is online reviews.


Written by Bob Nelson

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