How much does that fake review cost you on Yelp! – $5

Any ferry commuter to NYC on a rainy day has seen the “umbrella ladies” underneath the fake reviewsFDR selling umbrellas. Yelling “$5, $5” as you walk by. Apparently the same thing is happening with online reviews. As local businesses (especially restaurants/hotels) are increasingly depending on reviews as a sales tool, an industry of bull&*^%$ artists have sprung up to buy and sell raves for as low as $5 according to NY times.

One of the places to find people is, where people advertise tasks they are willing to perform for five bucks. A recent ad posted by “Bossarticle” —(many reviewers use fake names to write fake reviews ~go figure)— offered to write convincing reviews posted to a site of your choosing.

Yelp! states it has an algorithm that filters out reviews based on a few known and unknown criteria.  Yelp intentionally makes their filter difficult to reverse engineer. Certain obvious flags (such as brand new account, no profile picture and very few reviews) can cause reviews to look suspicious and become filtered.   To see more on how the filter works click here.   What happens is when a review is filtered is that the reviews are banished to the “Filtered Reviews” page that can be accessed at the bottom of the business profile page. Filtered reviews do not necessarily factor into a business’s overall star rating, but a business with filtered reviews could end up with it significantly hurting their ratings and going from something like 3.5 stars to 2 stars and the damage is hard to undo.

Yelp! does acknowledges its filtration not perfect. Some legitimate content might get filtered and some illegitimate content might sneak through.

And being there is money involved, this will most likely be an ongoing cat and mouse game.

According to Business Week “ As much as 30 percent of online product reviews can be fake, prompting companies to sponsor research to detect and combat fraudsters.

Take reviews with a grain of salt ..