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Are fake online reviews fooling you?

Posted at 11:00 PM, Dec 04, 2017

Smartphones make life so much easier. Need a dentist? Do a Google search. Looking for a Mexican restaurant? Check out Yelp. Online reviews help many of us decide where to take our business. But as Contact 13 reports, beware of bogus reviews looking to steer you away from a good company.

"People go online before they go anywhere nowadays," says Michael Solomon.

He's the owner of Wing Time and knows online reviews are essential. You want the best possible rating. Whether it's on Facebook, Google, Yelp, or any number of review sites. And a bad review can hurt business.

"Actually there have been reviews, of people saying because of the bad reviews, I didn't come in," says Michael.

But don't be fooled by fake reviews. It's happened to Michael. His restaurant received a one star rating nearly a year ago. Michael says the customer posted a rather nasty message.

"That he ate spoiled chicken in Africa, that was better than what he ate at our place," says Michael.

But Michael says it turns out, this customer caught on security camera, was working for a chicken wing competitor.

"He said he was working today, and we asked where do you work? And he told us," says Michael.

Michael's restaurant isn't alone.

"Landscaping & carpet cleaners. Flooring companies & homebuilders. They're all reviewed. Doctors of all types," says Brian Williams.

He's President of Five Star Economy, a Las Vegas-based marketing company specializing in online reviews. He says some estimates indicate, somewhere between 5% and 10% of reviews are fake. That translates to thousands of bogus complaints. When you're reading any review, Brian says, ask yourself is this legitimate or...

"Is this just someone that has some kind of vendetta against this business?" says Brian.

He says some people will always find a reason to complain.

"They are there to find a problem. They are there to get a free dessert. They are there to call the manager over. And so you have to make that determination. Is the person leaving that review, that kind of person?" says Brian.

To weed out the bogus reviews, he says look for:

-Defamatory comments, that go overboard in putting down an employee or the business.

-Check out the profile for the person complaining. Many of the fake ones, review businesses all over the country.

-And be sure to look at several review sites, and whether the business is responding to the complaint.

"We recommend that the business respond to all reviews. Both negative and positive... I don't know if I know any businesses that aren't willing to try to make something right," says Brian.

As for Michael, he says if Wing Time gets a poor review, he always responds to the complaint.

"We are certainly not perfect. All that we or I as a business owner ask is, if you have a bad experience please let us now," says Michael.

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