Attorney General's Office uncovers fraud amongst online review s - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Attorney General's Office uncovers fraud amongst online review sites

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ALBANY, N.Y. -- Many consumers read online reviews before going to a restaurant or maybe staying in a hotel, but as the Attorney General's Office uncovered, those reviews may not always be legitimate.

A yearlong investigation by the Attorney General's Office uncovered 19 different companies using fraudulent means to post fake positive online reviews to Yelp, City Search and other review sites.

Seth Gilberston says he uses many of those sites to look up hotels and restaurants, but knows the reviews can be misleading.

"Always I take it with a grain of salt," he said. "All you need is an email address to write a comment."

The investigation uncovered companies who were paying freelance writers from overseas to post positive reviews for $1 to $10 per review.

Business owners like Augie Vitiella says online reviews have lost some credibility.

"And now people will look at them thinking is this false did someone make this up," he said. "There are no checks and balances when it comes to social media."

Yelp's Senior Litigation Counsel, Aaron Schur issued the following statement:

"More than 100 million visitors come to Yelp each month, making it critical that Yelp protect the integrity of its content. We take many steps to do this, including the use of automated filtering software, leveraging our vast user community for tips about suspicious content, undercover sting operations, legal action, and cooperation with law enforcement. We applaud NY Attorney General Schneiderman for his willingness to tackle the issue of illegal fake reviews head on, and for his success in shutting down these operators. We look forward to continuing to cooperate with the New York Attorney General's office and any other interested law enforcement office or regulator to protect consumers and business owners from efforts to mislead."

But some like Vitiella believe consumers will still remain skeptical

"I think at the end of the day people who read these reviews aren't going to take them seriously anymore," he said.

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