VanMeveren Law Group June 2019

Foundations 970

SOUTH 2038 Caribou Drive, Suite 101 Fort Collins, CO 80525

OLD TOWN 123 North College Ave., Suite 112 Fort Collins, CO 80524

JUNE 2019

Online Reviews: Are They Trustworthy?

R ecent studies indicate that over 80 percent of online shoppers rely on reviews before committing to the purchase of a good or service. There is no doubt a large inventory of positive reviews can be a significant revenue booster for many businesses, but how do you know which reviews are legitimate and which are fake? Sadly, making fake reviews is a big business on the internet. Review Fraud, at ReviewFraud.org, is an online resource for evaluating the credibility of reviews. The website’s makers have compiled a list of companies currently engaged in the business of buying or manufacturing fake reviews. According to their website, Review Fraud has compiled a list of over 3,000 companies, including many law firms and insurance companies, which are actively seeking out unscrupulous “marketing” agencies to manufacture positive reviews, including four- and five-star reviews. A recent investigation by an NBC reporter demonstrated just how easy and affordable it is to falsely legitimize your business. The reporter set up a bogus gardening business and then went to an online service specializing in fake reviews. The reporter paid $168 for several fake Facebook reviews. Within 24 hours, the reporter’s fake company had amassed 999 “likes” and over 600 five-star reviews. Here’s the truly sad thing: Many businesses don’t even realize they are committing an illegal act by falsifying reviews. Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is stepping in to penalize dishonest companies. The minimum FTC fine for deceptive and unfair sales tactics is $250,000. The FTC recently fined California auto dealer Sage Auto $3.6 million for a variety of deceptive schemes. This included having their own employees post five-star reviews on Google and Facebook. Fakespot (Fakespot.com) is another great resource for determining the trustworthiness of online reviews. Fakespot allows you to simply paste the company or product URL into its artificial intelligence analyzer. Fakespot’s software then scans the authenticity of product reviews and provides a grade anywhere from an A to an F.

According to Fakespot’s data, 52 percent of Walmart.com reviews are fake or highly unreliable, and 1 in 3 Amazon.com reviews are illegitimate. You can use Fakespot on just about any website that posts reviews. How can we as consumers protect ourselves against fake reviews? First, always be skeptical. Second, gather reviews from as many sources as you can, such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, or the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Third, if you see any typos or broken English in the content of the review, it is likely false. Finally, if there has been a recent surge in a product or service’s positive reviews, be wary. While I’m still a strong believer in the value of law firm reviews, this should only be one of the many factors you or your family rely on when considering if an attorney is right for you. I invite you to visit our website at VanMeverenLaw.com. There,

click on the “Hiring An Attorney” video for a comprehensive look at the topic. In the words of the late president Ronald Reagan, “Trust, but verify.”

–Bryan VanMeveren

970-495-9741 • 1

www.vanmeverenlaw.com

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