Fake online reviews are a big problem. Fraudulent negative online reviews disrupt consumer behavior and can lead consumers to believing things that simply aren’t true.

Researchers estimate that up to one-third of online reviews are phony — many on small sites without robust fraud detection.
– Boston Globe, Review websites try to thwart false customer ratings

Not all hope is lost. Some online complaint websites and negative review applications have developed robust anti-spam technologies at work in the background, that identify and flag fraudulent online reviews before they are posted. However, even with fraud detection and prevention measures, independent and less-sophisticated online review websites can be manipulated to harm you or your brand’s online reputation.

Fake online reviews are harmful to the online reputations of businesses, brands, companies, and service providers, but false online complaints also harmful to other consumers.

Consumers look to online reviews to help them make informed buying decisions. Falsified negative online reviews may misinform consumers and ultimately impact the trust consumers place in online reviews.

70% of Americans look at product reviews prior to making a purchase.
– Google, Winning the Zero Moment of Truth – ZMOT

The practice of mass-posting negative online reviews in an effort to disrupt consumer behavior is harmful. Do not ignore these complaints, even if the negative online reviews are fake, businesses need to address all negative online reviews swiftly and effectively.

If you feel you have fallen victim to fake online reviews, here’s what you should do.

  1. Identify the source of the suspected misinformation.
    If the information was posted to a reputable online review site, you should be able to contact them and work to get the fake online review removed.
  2. Attempt to make contact with the author of the online complaint.
    On many sites, users must provide at least an email address to post an online review. Work with the forum or site owner to reach out to the author of the complaint.
  3. Consider hiring an online reputation management lawyer.
    As an example, look for a firm similar to Internet Defamation Removal Attorneys

All that said, the best offense is a good defense. If you are actively producing good content about your business or brand, online reviews won’t be able to out rank you in organic rankings. In addition, monitoring your online reputation allows you to detect any fake or false complaints before they become a problem.

Promote your online customer service department on your website, through your blog and on social media. Also, remain active within top social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter. Just keeping your ear to the ground might help prevent false complaints from spreading online.