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Outside a pizza restaurant in Tampa, Fla.

Getting away with fake online reviews is getting trickier. The time is past when you asked friends to sing your praises. Now you can hire a company to do it.

The New York Attorney General has just announced a settlement with 19 companies, accusing them of writing, and hiring freelancers to write, fake reviews.

But the lawsuit isn’t going to shut the review writing industry down.

I, for example, was able to get a glowing review of this story today. 

Before I’d written a word.

If ever a story could transform the very fabric of your existence, this is it. Whimsical. Exhilarating. Mind-blowing and mind-altering. Your story has changed my life, so kudos to you, Adriene. Kudos to you.

Thank you, trusty reviewer. Here’s your $30.

“This is incredibly widespread,” says Harvard Business School’s Michael Luca. He guesses somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 percent of online reviews are fake. “It means that out of every five reviews you see online, one of them was probably written by the business, or by a friend of the business, or by one of these companies that you can hire to leave fake reviews,” Luca says. Or, by a freelancer like the one I hired.

These days, you can outsource this kind of thing and don’t have to do it yourself, says Dina Mayzlin, a professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business.

And, she says, a lot of that outsourcing goes to workers overseas. “If you are a company based in another country, the laws are perhaps not as strict,” she says.

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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I don't trust any 5 star review or Yelp score or anything anymore and that will be the undoing of Yelp and Google. More articles like this mean less credibility for them. When we run training courses we actively encourage our customers to rate us, but we don't want them to pull their punches since we use the FBK.IO app and NPS to measure where we are at and how we can improve. 4 star feedback means we're doing our jobs right.

Yes, there are many fake reviews (good and bad), fake clicks, fake likes, ... etc ...

The answer is that every company should even leave Facebook and create profile in Global Catalog.

The reason is that Facebook doesn't have an option to search for a specific categories and keywords. In Facebook you can only find company profile if you know the name of the company.

Global Catalog uses a different and much better approach by organizing content into 100,000s products and services categories in 55 languages which makes finding Members of Global Catalog faster and easier. And, there are no advertisement banners in Company Profiles.


I work within the Brand Management Industry, and I see this far too often. But what this article lacks is recognizing the fake reviews that are negative, and left by a competitor or disgruntled employees. I see that do too much damage than giving your business praise. NY Attorney General is an ass clown for just targeting fake positive reviews.

This story was a bit thin. You did not address some obvious questions:
Is it illegal? Is anyone harmed?

How about Angie's List, which exists to prevent this kind of scamming? And what about those "protect your reputation" outfits; where do they fit in?

I once was eating at a Thai restaurant and decided to read the Yelp reviews to see how they matched up to my own personal opinion. In the middle of the page there was a five-star review...by my server!

Another time I was checking Yelp reviews of a furniture shop (mostly out of curiosity, as a friend's family owns it and I was wondering about their reputation). There were 2 reviews: a one-star review by an angry person who was dissatisfied with their purchase, and a five-star review...by the owner's daughter (although it was carefully crafted to not look that way...there were a couple of minor nitpicks thrown in amongst all the praise).

I read review sites to get a general gist of what to expect, but I don't put a lot of weight in any particular review.

I used to be a believer in TripAdvisor until they kept saying one of my reviews did not meet one of their policies. I tried re-writing three times but they still would not publish my negative review of Treasure Island, Las Vegas. All I kept trying to write is that it changed under new owners from my prior visit and I would not stay there because TI is now confused on what it wants to be (either a pirate or a cowboy theme resort). That is when I figured that some of the reviews were rigged.

On TripAdvisor, I've had good luck by scanning the reviews then going to the "travel forums" and posting requests for tips from local experts. You can tell more easily, I think, if someone really is from the place and is telling you their true opinion by way of this dialogue. I've received great help via the forums.

I can speak from personal experience.

A few years back I was researching hotels for an upstate New York road trip.

What I noticed is that many of the "reviewers" had 40 "reviews" and there was plenty of overlap among the businesses "reviewed" by the 40ers. I also noticed two of the reviewers stayed on the same Buffalo, New York hotel on different days then ate in the same Brooklyn Chinese takeout place.

These "reviewers" were either extremely lucky or very easily pleased, invariably giving five star raves.

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