Nearly 20 companies are in hot water with the New York Attorney General for writing fake online reviews. Fraud expert Dan Draz explains that this development is not at all surprising. After all, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.
As companies attempt to mislead customers with embellished or outright dishonest reviews, it is apparent that they are committing serious fraud. Fake reviews are a form of false advertising, and what these companies are doing is illegal. But can they be stopped?
The announcement last week by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman regarding a settlement with 19 companies writing fake online reviews should not have come as a surprise to anyone as you really can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. In fact, it confirmed what we already knew: the Web has vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities allow individuals to be anyone, or anything, at any time, and the Internet anonymity issue directly contributes to a wide variety of e-commerce ethics problems, deception, misrepresentation and illegal activity as outlined in this investigation.
Internet anonymity is really nothing new, it goes back to the early days of online chat rooms when men thought they were talking to women only to surprisingly learn that they were really chatting with 40’s ish, balding, overweight, males pretending to be women. This, of course led to an Internet joke about one online company’s chat rooms, “_______, where men are men and women are men!” The moral of the story: things aren’t always what they appear online as evidenced in this case.
The NY AG’s investigation demonstrated a couple things. First, that this is a more prevalent issue than most people thought. Secondly, writing fake online reviews is a blatantly false, misleading and deceptive form of “false advertising” to consumers and the FTC concurs. While writing fake online reviews is just the natural progression of Internet growth (creating online profiles and social media accounts), the reality is that there really is nothing to prevent anyone from creating fake social media accounts, fake account names and fake online profiles despite various Terms of Service agreements to the contrary.
Visit Dan’s post on CommPRO.biz to learn about the Attorney General’s settlement and what it means for the future of fake online reviews.