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Dodgy Google Five Star Review Scam Exposed

Google has found itself caught up in another scam with a leading consumer watchdog claiming that organisations are buying fake five-star reviews.

UK consumer group Which recently set up a fake company and bought bogus five-star reviews as part of an investigation.

In doing so, it was able to tie its sham “customers” to dozens of other highly rated organisations.

ChannelNews is also aware of an investigation in Australia where fake negative reviews were written and posted to an audio retailers web site by a competitor. The competitor was identified by an IP address.

Google says it has “significantly” invested in new technology to tackle the issue of people posting both good and bad fake reviews.

Already under investigation in Australia by the ACCC the UK Competition and Markets Authority is now investigating and earlier this week threatened enforcement action against platforms which have fallen short of their responsibilities.

Previous research from Which? suggests that nearly half of people who check online reviews of local businesses read them on Google.

The BBC said that Which? conducted its research by essentially setting up a “sting” operation to catch unscrupulous operators in the act.

It created a fake business listing which it called “five-star reviews” and searched online for companies advertising paid-for Google reviews. They then invested in various services offering reviews.

Which? told each company it wanted five-star reviews only, and between three and five of them a day.

The consumer group’s researchers then wrote the reviews themselves.

The fake reviews appeared over the following week, a few at a time.

Which? said that some fake reviews could have serious real-world consequences. For example, one claimed that a Liverpool solicitor had helped them recover tens of thousands of pounds. If false, it could scam people in a vulnerable financial position, the group argued.

ChannelNews has identified one review site in Australia where an audio retailer who got several one-star ratings suddenly flooded the review web site with five-star reviews praising the service and support operation of the business.

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