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Nineteen companies have agreed to stop their misleading practices and pay a total of 0,000 in penalties.The investigation, which spanned 12 months, exposed companies that created fake reviews on sites like Google, skowyt, Citysearch and Yahoo, as well as the companies who paid for them, including a charter bus operator, a teeth-whitening service, and a laser hair-removal chain, among others.Investigators working in the sting operation began by posing as the owner of a Brooklyn yogurt shop that sought to bolster their reputation after being victimized by unfair reviews.The investigation revealed that fabricated reviews were written locally and also by a network of writers in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Eastern Europe for as little as a dollar each from persons that had never even visited the U. Instead of correcting complaints, like buses never showing up, US Coachways, a company in the investigation, embraced an all out fake review campaign, and hired freelance writers.
And companies that continue to engage in these practices should take note: “Astroturfing” is the 21st century’s version of false advertising, and prosecutors have many tools at their disposal to put an end to it.” The entire list of companies that entered into Assurances of Discontinuance is: @import url(As noted before, buying fake yelp reviews are illegal.Although the investigation targeted companies based in New York, it will have a much wider reach.Yelp has stridently addressed the problem, and recently sued a California law firm for writing fake reviews of itself.“Consumers rely on reviews from their peers to make daily purchasing decisions on anything from food and clothing to recreation and sightseeing,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.
In some cases, all the reviews of a product have been bought and paid for by the seller. As I’ve pointed out in a previous article, there are major ramifications ethically, financially and even legally when a business owner pays for reviews, and if you entertain the notion that you will never get caught, think again.