Fake Reviews, Web Sites, Phone Numbers

Rogue reviews are in the news again. This time Amazon has sued hundreds of freelancers for selling fake reviews, accusing more than 1,100 people of offering to post positive writeups of ebooks and other products for fees of as little as $5. Amazon isn't the only one feeling the pain.

Wikipedia in September banned editors from 381 blackhat user accounts who were paid to post and maintain promotional content to the online encyclopedia after the site's CheckUser group identified "sock puppet" editors creating promotional articles, and inserting promotional external links.

It's Amazon's second lawsuit this year to battle fake reviewers. This time the company observed fake review sellers trying to avoid being spotted by using multiple accounts coming from unique Internet Protocol addresses.

In Amazon's latest case, the defendants sold their freelance services on the Fiverr. The Web site allows people to sell services like editing resumes, and creating Facebook fan Web pages. Most promised very positive or five-star reviews.

It's a challenge for marketplaces, retailers and brands to fight fraudulent online ratings and reviews. Better reviews help a product or brand rank higher in search engine query results pages. To post a verified review, where Amazon verifies the person posting item purchased on Amazon, some of the reviewers allegedly ask for a promo code to get the product for free.

Yes -- the most authoritative local search annual studies show "Review Signals" comprise about 8.4% of the Google local ranking algorithm now in 2015. (Review quantity, Review velocity, Review diversity, etc.). One would assume that Bing is similar.  

Reviews play various roles in what results display in certain Google template objects including Local Stack and Snack Pack, according to Marty Weintraub, aimClear founder. Reviewers' quality also seems to matter, such as quantity of reviews by authority reviewers on Yelp Elite, Google Local Guides, and others.
"There is correlation data suggesting that Amazon reviews impact ranking," Weintraub says. It's also important to remember that ranking is only the first half of the battle. Obviously customers gravitate toward converting on products and services with great reviews and shy away from crappy ones. Bottom line: good reviews are usually good somehow, including in Google's eyes."

Brian Krebs, former reporter for The Washington Post, now runs a blog "Krebs on Security." He reminds readers not to be fooled by fake reviews, and points to a piece about Full Service Van Lines, a moving company that had mostly five-star reviews online but whose owners and operators had a long and very public history of losing or destroying their customers’ stuff, along with other bad things. He says that last week federal regulators shut down the company.

He also points to Bryan Seely, another cybersecurity expert and former Microsoft employee. Seely is working on an as-yet unpublished book highlighting black SEO practices and how they relate to fake companies online with different business names, addresses and phone numbers. The calls to each of these phony firms are eventually all routed back to the SEO company, which sells the customer lead to one of several companies that have agreed in advance to buy such business leads. No doubt he got fodder for the book from his escapades in February 2014.

1 comment about "Fake Reviews, Web Sites, Phone Numbers".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from, network, October 20, 2015 at 3:52 p.m.

    On a more serious and less colorful note, I'd like at ask any of the legal eagle readers to comment on a suggestion I have for posted comments.  If those making comments had to check a few boxes before posting, that asked if they were compensated for the review, and how long they've owned the product or used the service being commented upon, would their answers carry any weight in litigation if their review turned-out to be fake?  At the very least, it might scare-off the amateur liars.

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