The rise and ubiquity of online reviews has also created a burgeoning industry in fake reviews. These reviews may achieve short term results but are worth less than nothing. Inflating or manipulating an online reputation is not only a huge example of bad faith, it is terrible business practice.

In New Zealand in the past few weeks, property management company, Quinovic, has had to admit that a number of reviews on one of its facebook page and on Google were fake. Stuff reported that ”Quinovic’s chief operating officer Paul Chapman said the firm had “concluded that the reviews are fake”. Chapman said there was no record on the Quinovic database of property owners or tenants associated with alleged fake Facebook reviews.  Fake reviews had also been found and “flagged” on Google.”

“Fake reviewers tend not to post misleading reviews from the goodness of their hearts or to alleviate any sense of boredom they may be feeling.”

It seems that nearly all of those who left glowing, five star Google reviews on the franchise’s Te Aro’s page were from reviewers who only reviewed Quinovic and a pawn shop in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Without pointing the finger of blame, that does seem incredibly strange. Fake reviewers tend not to post misleading reviews from the goodness of their hearts or to alleviate any sense of boredom they may be feeling. Those reviews generally always have a commercial imperative.

“Google reviews are a fantastic tool and it goes without question that the majority of them are genuine – but having obviously fabricated ones removed is almost impossible.”

NoCowboys has been plagued by a fake company in India called vt designz for the past few years. They call businesses from fake New Zealand proxy numbers and are in actuality calling from India. They call and fraudulently claim that they are associated with NoCowboys – hoping to obtain monies under false pretences. If you were to take a look at their Google reviews you would be presented with a breathtaking fiction of fake reviews, that present a completely inflated depiction of the company.

Google reviews are a fantastic tool and it goes without question that the majority of them are genuine – but having obviously fabricated ones removed is almost impossible. You can flag one but then you are asked to provide an image as evidence that the review is fake. How does that worK? How do you visualise that a review is fake?

” . . . fake reviews are mainly used to enhance a reputation and that is a massive disservice to consumers who actively seek out reviews before contacting a business or purchasing a product.”

One of vt designz’ recent reviews was from a gentleman at a New Zealand company, called Moana Clothing. Out of interest I called Moana Clothing and asked to speak with the reviewer. I wasn’t overly surprised when I was informed that nobody of that name had ever worked there. More than that, vt designz had never done any work for that company. But all of that did nothing to alter the glowing five star review attesting to their incredible design work, communication skills, and competitive pricing. All fake.

A completely fake review, almost impossible to remove

And that’s the thing – fake reviews are mainly used to enhance a reputation and that is a massive disservice to consumers who actively seek out reviews before contacting a business or purchasing a product. Luckily most consumers are savvy and can spot fake ones – they also know that some sites have authenticated reviews, and some don’t. But some people don’t and will ultimately be burned by a company that is nothing like the way they are presented through fraudulent online reviews.

“Why give your hard earned cash to a company that would rather alter its online reputation instead of actively creating a more honest and transparent business?”

I think it was great that Quinovic removed the misleading fake reviews that had accumulated on their Facebook page and flagged the Google. It was a commendable act of good faith to admit that they were fake – but I would also ask how they got there in the first place.

My advice with fake reviews is to read as many reviews as possible. Most fake reviews are used to alleviate and mitigate genuine bad ones, and there will doubtless be bad reviews to go with the manipulated good ones. Why give your hard earned cash to a company that would rather alter its online reputation instead of actively creating a more honest and transparent business? I wouldn’t buy anything, or hire anyone without spending a good amount of time on Google and reading reviews. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed.