Businesses Hit With $350,000 in Fines for Fake Online Reviews

Writing fake online reviews can land your business in serious trouble and cost you more than you gained in reputation or sales. Just ask 19 businesses caught in New York’s “Operation Clean Turf.” The undercover investigation snagged SEO companies and small businesses engaged in an activity Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is calling “astroturfing.” Schneiderman’s office defines astroturfing as the “practice of preparing or disseminating a false or deceptive review that a reasonable consumer would believe to be a neutral, third-party review.” The technique is a form of false advertising, according to the state Attorney General.

An announcement from Schneiderman’s office says the investigation uncovered businesses that allegedly created false accounts on review sites like Yelp, Google Local and CitySearch. The companies then hired freelancers in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe to write reviews for between $1 and $10 a piece, Schneiderman’s office said. Schneiderman’s office shared some of the ads allegedly posted on sites like Craigslist, ODesk.com and Freelancer.com like this one by an SEO company…. Read the full article compliments of Small Business Trends by clicking here.

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