Mudd Law Comments on Continued Fake Online Reviews Proliferating on the Internet

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Fake news occurs nearly daily according to some, but another destructive movement that seeks to deceive readers for monetary gain involve fake reviews.

A number of websites, including message boards, allow anyone to post a complaint or a review about a service or product.  Sometimes users are able to post their feedback with just a username or email address. While this certainly provides customers the opportunity to share their experiences with others, a business owner should read the review carefully before blaming a customer or client.  In some instances, the review might very well emanate from a clearly identified customer.  In other instances, a business owner should consider that the review may be a fake.  In fact, in some situations, the author of the “fake review” may have never even interacted with your business.

Indeed, the websites that solicit negative reviews from the Internet population provide deceptive companies a method by which to profit from business owners concerned about their online reputation.  In some instances, the site on which the content appears seeks to make monetary gain by charging enormous sums for mysterious “arbitration” services that may or may not succeed.  In other instances, black hat or rogue reputation management companies may seek to create “dark” content that prompts a need for reputation management services.  For these reasons, a business owner should again review the content carefully before blaming a client or customer for the bad review.

So, should a bad review appear online, review it carefully to determine whether it may be a legitimate or fake review.

How do you know if your review is fake? 

A few signs exist that may infer that a negative review has been posted by someone other than an angry customer.  To begin with, consider the frequency of posts.  A warning sign should go off if you notice the same user or similar user names posting multiple complaints within a short time period, like on the same day.  Moreover, has the same user published reviews about multiple companies?

Also, you should look to see if the same review has been posted across multiple review websites or message boards.  Do they use the same name?  Are there different user profiles?  In some instances, the same review may contain contradictory profile or post information (eg alleged value of loss differs).

But, perhaps most importantly, you should examine the language within the review. Your average reviewer will not make every effort to employ SEO tactics to push a review higher in a Google search results.  If you notice your company, employees’ names and location all listed in various forms, most likely the author is trying to make this review easy to be found.  Look out for negative or particular words capitalized.  A tell-tale sign of a fake post will be anything that contains the odd phrase “Snake in the Grass” or similar phrases.

Should you hear from a sketchy reputation management or SEO company soon after the negative “fake review” appears, you may very well have – circumstantially – found your responsible party.  Be diligent.  If you receive a bad review followed closely by an SEO solicitation, chances are the review is fraudulent and this is a play to get your business.  But, again, be diligent.  A legitimate company may also have trolled through various havens for negative reviews looking for victims.

What to Do Next?

In any case, the next question focuses on what to do next.  There exist various options.  Some times, with the fake reviews that lack specificity and include generalize statements like “they change too much,” “they care about money,” and others, you may very well be in the best position by doing nothing.  There exist a number of factors to consider in determining how best to respond.

But, the object of this article has been to suggest pausing before blaming your customers.  You should review the content carefully and consult with an experience firm who can guide you on appropriate next steps.

If you are worried about a fake review and not sure how to tell if it is fraudulent, contact Mudd Law. We have experience helping companies deal with fake online reviews and have even had to deal with this situation firsthand. Our attorneys can help your company determine if you have a fraudulent review and provide guidance on how to best handle your fake review situation.