Yelp, Facebook and Google have pulled dozens of reviews from the internet after an NBC4 I-Team report uncovered evidence that many online reviews, and reviewer profiles, are fake.
"It's against our policies to misrepresent yourself on Facebook," company spokesperson Annie Demarest told the I-Team, after NBC4 aired examples of fake reviews on the Facebook page of Beverly Hills dentist Dr. Rodney Raanan.
The I-Team noticed multiple five-star reviews had popped up on a single day on Dr. Raanan's Facebook page, from people who didn't seem to exist. For example, on May 25 2016, twelve reviews were posted on the dentist's page.
"We removed the fake accounts that left the inauthentic reviews," Facebook's Demarest told the I-Team.
Google also has yanked dozens of reviews exposed as fake by the I-Team.
A Google reviewer named "Janet Downer" gave glowing reviews to 15 businesses in the U.S., Canada, and England.
But the I-Team found out there is no such "Janet Downer," and the photo on the reviews actually belongs to Whitney Miller, the first winner of TV's Masterchef competition. Miller says her picture was taken off the internet without her knowledge or permission and put on fake reviews of those 15 businesses.
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"I have never heard of these [businesses]," Miller told the I-Team. "I have never visited any of these places."
The I-Team also found what appeared to be numerous fake reviewers on Yelp, like "Alexis R" of San Diego. She gave glowing reviews to six California businesses, even though the woman in the photo is apparently a model in Russia named Olga Sukhanova.
"The Yelp user support team has decided to close the four accounts you reported. Thank you for flagging these," Yelp spokesperson Rachel Walker Youngblade told the I-Team.
Yelp, Google and Facebook all suggest that consumers notify them of suspicious reviews. The companies say they'll investigate, and remove reviews they determine find to be fake.
The I-Team has reached out to Dr. Raanan multiple times for comment, but he has not returned phone calls.