There’s an increasing trend that consumers need to be aware of while shopping for restaurants, accommodations and services online.
Companies have been created, and hired, by businesses to provide their company with fake, favorable reviews through the popular online shopping websites and popular review services. For a fee, these companies will create a positive spin on the product online, misleading the customers that are considering the product for purchase.
What’s the Value in a Review?
There is one thing that most customers search for when it comes to shopping for products online or researching products that are going to be purchased in the store — reviews and experiences of the customers that have purchased the products in the past.
When it comes to choosing certain products and services, peer reviews are one of the deciding factors when it comes to the purchasing choice being made. Easily found online and often at the top of the search results, these search results are becoming skewed with paid advertising and insertion, creating biased and essentially ‘purchased’ reviews.
Unfortunately, the reviews that are available through popular review websites, comments and reviews on popular shopping sites aren’t always accurate. In fact, more and more companies are being fined for creating content and misleading reviews in their favor — seen recently in the headlines.
How do the Fake Reviews Work?
These companies provide positive reviews on websites like Google, Citysearch, Yahoo and Yelp — hoping to increase the online presence of the business.
The company hires a team to take to the internet, providing positive and diverse reviews about the services, the food, or the experience to lure potential customers into making the choice of restaurant, experience or hotel. Once the customer has purchased the meal, restaurant or weekend away, they’re often aware that the reviews were fake but are unfortunately out of the money that had been paid for the service.
Reviews are completed using software that enables the worker to change their IP address and therefore create unique-looking reviews using the same website.
These fake reviews are a cheap way for the business owner to build up their reputation online, with reviews costing as little as a dollar per positive review. Often commissioned from workers overseas, customers are learning to look through reviews written a bit closer, and avoid the bad experience.
What’s the Penalty?
A total of nineteen companies have been charged recently with upwards of $350,000 for providing the fake reviews to companies in a sting set up by officials in New York, under the premise of a Yogurt shop in an operation that took more than a year of planning.
The lesson here is for customers, as well as business owners. Business owners should understand the potential penalties associated with hiring companies to create fake reviews; consumers need to be aware while shopping online that the information being presented through the reviews should not be taken at face value.
How Can You Avoid Being Swindled
Look through the quality of the reviews that are being provided. One of the tips that experts have provided is to look for the quality of the language. If it is difficult to read, or odd and out of order, the reviews are potentially paid for — as English is the second language of the workers being hired to craft these fake reviews.
In addition to looking for language, find other resources for reviews including peers and friends that you know firsthand, advice from family members or shop through stores that enable you to return the item in the case that you’re unsatisfied with its performance. For services, don’t be afraid to address issues with management in discrepancies of experience.
Joshua Turner is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to business. In this article, he describes the new policies in place against fake reviews on the Internet and aims to encourage further study with an NEC Online Master of Arts in Public Policy.