Southern California

Who's Really Behind Fake Online Reviews?

The I-Team exposes fake review writers, from LA to Bangladesh

Facebook and Google have removed fake online reviews exposed by the NBC4 I-Team.

The I-Team has uncovered dozens of people that, for a small fee, will write glowing but phony reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp, for businesses trying to lure you in.

In November, the I-Team exposed how some Southern California businesses pay for fake reviews to boost their online reputations. In a new investigation, NBC4 reveals exactly who is writing and selling those phony reviews.

A local stationery store, Black Ink, agreed to help the I-Team uncover the booming business of fake reviews. The store’s owner, Patti Black, signed up with several review writers she found online. Black had never used any of these services before. 

Within minutes, Black Ink was getting favorable reviews on Google and Facebook, from what appeared to be real people.

"It’s not honest," says Patti Black, the store's owner. "Who are these people? They don’t know my store," Black added.

But the I-Team found that the review writers apparently created fictitious reviewers, and then posted the 5-star reviews under those names.

After the I-Team informed Facebook and Google about the phony reviews for Black Ink, both companies promptly removed them from the internet.

The I-Team has a few simple steps that you can use to determine if a review is real or fake:

1. Check Reviewers’ Other Reviews: if someone has reviewed businesses in cities that are far apart (and even overseas), at around the same time, it’s a sign that this is a fake account.

2. Beware of Generic Language: fake reviews are often written using a template that lacks specific details about prices, situations, or other personal details.

3. Look at the Posting Dates: be suspicious if a business has numerous new, positive online reviews appear on the same day, same week, or same month.

4. Research Facebook Profile: a Facebook reviewer with no friends, interests, or other background information suggests a fraudulent account.

Click through to learn how to report suspected fake reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp.

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