TripAdvisor Fake Reviews Investigated – BBC News
Over three years after it was first widely reported (see below) that the postings on the popular travel review site were suspect there are still considerable concerns as reported in this May 2014 article from the BBC.
“The fake review problem is endemic” – Fox News
There’s a lot of great information to be had and helpful consumers posting insightful and useful reviews on generated content marketing sites like TripAdvisor but according to Fox News “Right now, the fake review problem is endemic.” and specifically “You’ll find them on TripAdvisor.”
They go on to warn “Beware! The Internet can be full of lies and misdirection.” and describe the same sort of fraud that The Today Show highlights in the segment below.
Today Show Story on Fake Reviews and Fraud on TripAdvisor in Costa Rica
Fake Reviews on TripAdvisor have gotten so bad even the fake reviewers say it’s out of control as seen in this story on the Today show
Quotes from the video
Costa Rica fake reviewer ‘Billy’ – “if it takes a fake review on TripAdvisor to get more people in your door, I don’t see why that’s wrong.”
Today Show reporter – “Billy admits he’s been doing it for years, setting up fake e-mail addresses and user names…Why are you coming forward with this now?”
‘Billy’ – “I think it’s gotten out of control, it’s gone – it’s gone way bigger… it’s just gotten way out of hand.”
travel writer Edward Hasbrook – “I was at a travel conference not long ago where one of the largest advertising agencies told this audience they had an entire division in a third-world country where labor is cheap who were already prepared and available to post favorable reviews and say good things about whatever their client paid them to do.”
Avoiding The Fakes
The advice given by “experts” at the end of the video on how to avoid the fraud is shockingly naive and leaves you completely at the mercy of the con artists, Today Show reporter – “The key is take the amazing ones with the over the top language ‘this was the best time I ever had, the most fantastic meal I ever had.’ and the worst, right ‘this is the worst time I ever had, it was skanky and filthy’ – throw those out.”
That’s Terrible Advice from the “Experts”
Throw out the best and the worst since they are obviously fake and just look at the middle ones is terrible advice. Unlike ‘Billy” in the video most of the con artists are not marketing amateurs – small hotel owners who post obviously fake reviews that get removed by TripAdvisor’s moderators or ignored as extreme – they are professionals with teams of copywriters who turn out “middle ones” by the dozens.
They aren’t trying to convince you that you’ll be carried into the night by cockroaches if you stay in the hotel; they’re trying to raise the average rating and make you reasonably certain one place is better than another. They’re better at writing “believable” reviews than real people are – they’re professionals and the extreme reviews you toss out may well be the overly enthusiastic experiences of real people who just had a fantastic or terrible time.
I’ve participated for years and contributed thousands of (hopefully helpful) answers and reviews to many travel sites and communities…BUT…as a traveler you should keep in mind that not only are they used by professional fraudsters to con and lie to you but they were designed, created and are operated by teams of professional marketers at companies like TripAdvisor with the goal of profiting from your visit by selling you something on Expedia or Hotwire.