Online reviews: What should you believe?

Online reviews often sway our purchasing decisions -- but when a company uses that against a rival, the law can become involved.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Online car giant Edmunds.com is filing a lawsuit against a company which used fake accounts to concoct fraudulent reviews of dealerships online.

In a statement, the online car dealer said a lawsuit has been filed against Texas-based Humankind Design Ltd for fraud -- namely creating almost 2,200 fake website member accounts to post fake, negative reviews of dealerships.

Edmunds.com claims that Humankind readily admits to posting fraudulent reviews and is willing to post fake opinions on sites including Google+, Yelp, Foursquare, Citysearch and local.yahoo.com.

Not only can fake, negative reviews be damaging to a business, but in turn, companies are known to pay others to post positive reviews to bring sales up.

Unfortunately, firms that make money off fake reviews either way are common -- but how can consumers know what is real and what isn't?

Herein lies the difficulty. If you think about how you would write a review yourself as a customer, then fraudulent reviews can be easier to spot. Be wary of reviews posted that appear over-enthusiastic or seem to have been churned out by a PR specialist. In addition, reviews with too little or too much information can appear contrived, and the posters may either be adding as much context as possible to trash a business -- or may not have been there at all, and are simply hoping to weaken a rival business' reputation.

Humankind seemed to have understood this concept well. As noted by Skift, the company operated at www.glowingreviews.co before being shut down. However, a promotional video revealed just how easy consumer reviews can be twisted based on the motives of others:

"If one of the businesses you work with wants to improve their sales, they'll need a regular flow of positive reviews posted online. We post reviews anonymously at a pre-defined drip rate. Dripping reviews out slowly is the key to appearing natural and not being spammed."

Via: Skift

Image credit: C.Osborne/SmartPlanet

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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