19 Companies Caught Writing Fake Online Reviews

19 Companies Caught Writing Fake Online Reviews

Those on-line reviews you read or write have a huge impact, to businesses and to reputations.

So big in fact, companies are paying people to write fake positive or negative reviews to influence on-line ratings.

It's called astroturfing, the cyber version of false advertising.

After a year long investigation, New York state officials caught 19 firms placing fake reviews written from people in Bangladesh, the Philippines and eastern Europe.

Some businesses in LA are hoping a similar crackdown happens here.

Like for Ibex Bridal, which gets a star and a half rating on yelp. The owner says he wants proof the reviews about his salon are legit.

Owner, Danny Berroksin says, "Who is to say those reviews are not fake, are not from our competitor or someone who has something against our business. Whether it's one review or 10 reviews they have no way of checking whether it's true or not."

He adds, "our sales have gone down over 50 percent and our reputation and my personal reputation, and our reputations with our manufacturers, some say they don't want to work with us since we have such a bad reviews."

He says for the past 4 years, he's been fighting with yelp to restore his online reputation. The owner considered a class action lawsuit against the company and also went to the FBI for help but hasn't had any luck. He wants Yelp to prove the reviews are accurate.

Berooskin says, " whether it's one review or 10 reviews they have no way of checking whether it's true or not. "

The New York Attorney General set up a fake yogurt shop in a year long sting operation to trap fake online review companies, many of these firms pay people anywhere from a dollar per review for a fake write up. While federal rules say paid reviews must be disclosed, most are not.

Carmen Balber of consumer watchdog says,, "nobody is regulating who is posting those reviews on line so right now there is very little that companies can do to be sure that whoever is reviewing their business on line is legitimate.

But California state officials may soon be cracking down on this type of false online advertising

After the investigation in New York ended up fining 19 companies for these practices.

"It's a classic false advertising case. People who read online reviews reasonably assume that the reviews were written by actual customers. It's an old-time fraud emerging in a new marketplace, and it's one that attorneys general and other enforcement agencies are looking at." says Jeff Rabkin, Special assistant Attorney General for Law and Technology.

For Ibex Bridal they hope customers don't believe everything they read online.

Customer Adriana Becerra says, "I have read them but i think you get a better experience when you come and see it for yourself and see how you get treated. I'm very happy."

It's unclear if the reviews for Ibex are true or not. Fox 11 reached out to Yelp but have not yet heard back.


ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York's attorney general is trying to dismantle what he calls a system of creating false online review for products and services.

On Monday, Eric Schneiderman settled cases with 19 companies that included $350,000 in penalties after a yearlong investigation into the fake plaudits sometimes called "astroturfing." The term is based on the synthetic grass used on sports fields.

Schneiderman says he found companies that filed false reviews on Yelp, Google Local, CitySearch and other websites.

Many were written by people in Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review.

Some fraudulent writers also defended their fake reviews on websites challenging the reviews.

One undercover agent was able to hire a company to create a false positive impression of a fictitious company.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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