The Danger of Fake Reviews

May 23, 2019   Tracey Aston   Hiring a Pet Sitter

The digital age has changed our daily lives in varied and positive ways – computers, cell phones that double as tiny computers, instant communication and a way to bridge the physical distances between us.  It has also given us anonymity and with it a rise in cyber bully, fake profiles, catfishing and yes, fake reviews.

According to the NBC article “Can You Trust Online Reviews? Here's How to Find Fakes” by Joe Enoch:

“An NBC News investigation found thousands of questionable reviews on Amazon, Yelp, Facebook and Google — and showed that it was possible to purchase hundreds of positive reviews within days for a new company that had never done any work.

Over on Yelp, photos again gave away the questionable reviews. In glowing reviews for a contractor in California, three users posted beautiful photos of what they said was the finished work. However, the photos are apparently not of the contractor's work, but stock photos that can be purchased from Getty Images and Shutterstock.

To see how businesses may be purchasing fake reviews, NBC News created a gardening business on Facebook and paid $168 to websites that promised to post positive reviews. Within 24 hours, the business had 999 likes and a few days after that, more than 600 five-star reviews. The reviews came from apparently fake Facebook accounts –- the profiles spread out across the globe. The reviews even include generic descriptions of the work such as "really efficient and a pleasure to deal with" and "very polite, did a wonderful job."

In statements, Facebook, Google, Amazon and Yelp all said they are aware of the problem and have protocols in place to actively monitor and remove fake reviews. They also said the public can help end the problem by flagging suspicious reviews.”

While Facebook is beginning to crack down on fake accounts, there are still many that slip through the cracks. This is especially true if these accounts aren't “making any noise.” Meaning, the accounts aren't harassing others, spamming pages or in other ways violating TOS.  This means a business owner could make a fake account and use it only to leave themselves positive reviews, and at the same time raising their overall general star rating. Do all small businesses do this? Of course not! Do some? Unfortunately and enough that's it's become a noticeable problem, as mentioned above. In addition to the owner of the page making a fake account, other family and friends could be not only leaving reviews but making even more fake accounts to leave even more fake reviews. It's completely ethical for a family member to want to support their loved one, the problem comes when they begin faking accounts and reviews to do so.

Boosting their business is one way reviews can be faked and leaving false reviews to competitor's pages to make their business look better in comparison is another. At present, Facebook has no way to verify if the person leaving the review is now or ever has been a client.

In the pet care industry, not only does this confuse consumers, it can put innocent pets are risk. An informed pet parent may be researching reviews and come upon a review stating the pet sitter can give medications, is experienced in a certain area or with a certain breed when they're not. Friends and family vouching for a so called responsible pet sitter who has lost pets in the past or is boarding without a license can cause injury or even death to a pet.  Our article, The Dangers of Online Apps has literally dozens upon dozens of stories about lost, injured or killed pets left in the hands of those who weren't trained or qualified to take care of them. Some of those pet sitters had positive reviews left online.

So what is a true consumer to do in this digital age?  While reviews are a good place to start, follow up by speaking with friends and neighbors who have used the services, check the profiles of those leaving online reviews and make sure they are in the area of service and have an active profile. Ask questions when thinking of hiring a pet sitter, even after reading a positive review. A professional pet care specialist will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about their policies, procedures and emergencies protocols. 

 
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