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Newscast Blows the Lid off Fake Online Reviews

Do you trust the reviews you find online? You shouldn't. Watch as PBS' NewsHour exposes user-generated review sites—that is, sites where you primarily find reviews written by past customers and not by assigned experts. 

In a world where a few positive reviews can make a business' reputation, people are easily tempted into stuffing the ballot box with fake reviews, and there's a booming shadow industry in posting them for a quick buck. PBS finds people who write fake reviews for a few dollars each.

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As the piece explains, some companies are going to great lengths to weed out reviews that are inauthentic because when their rivals post them, it damages their bottom line. Yelp labels about 25% of its reviews as suspicious, and the problem is so bad that 1 in 10 of its employees is dedicated to trying to sniff out fake reviews.

Unfortunately, as the segment also explains, it's not easy to figure out what's fake and what's real. The industry's top experts refuse to describe the criteria they use to ferret out inauthentic reviews, and the best advice one tech journalist has to offer is, "If you can't imagine a friend saying it," it's "probably not" real—vague advice, indeed. 

For the record, Frommer's does not publish user-generated reviews. All of our listings are written by individual experts who have personally visited each destination.

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Tags: online reviews, web, opinion

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