False advertisers, beware. Writing fake reviews on Yelp might just cost you thousands of dollars if you get caught.
19 companies have been charged more than $350,000 in penalties for writing fake reviews on Yelp, according to a press release from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The practice is dubbed “astroturfing.”
Search engine optimization (SEO) companies paid off freelance writers from places like the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Eastern Europe to write positive reviews in order to boost business. These freelancers created fake online profiles and were paid between $1-$10 per review.
Schneiderman’s office posed as a yogurt shop in Brooklyn and called SEO companies to seek advice in combating negative reviews. Some of the companies said that they write fake reviews and offered to write some for the phony yogurt shop.
According to the release, 90 percent of consumers say that online reviews influence their decision to buy a product, and a one-star rating increase led to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue for a restaurant.
The numbers speak for themselves: people are heavily influenced by reviews. When considering what others write on Yelp, remember to take it with a grain of salt.