They even use “software” to hide that the reviews came from India.
By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.
The pile of apparently fake 5-star reviews has led me years ago to be leery of them. I just never knew how cheap they were.
I was approached via email by an outfit in India whose name I won’t disclose because I don’t want to give them a free promo. They offered to sell me 5-star reviews of some service they thought Wolf Street might be selling. So I followed up.
I mean, I might want to buy some 5-star reviews for my WOLF STREET beer mugs that aren’t even for sale; I send them out as thank-you gifts for donations of $100 or more. But hit hard by the beer mug shortage, I’ve been out of mugs since November 2021. So I had a reason to inquire about their 5-star reviews.
And fake reviews from India face the problem of their IP address being from India — reviews from India of the Wolf Street beer mugs that I don’t even ship to India? I was hooked: How would they get around that?
This is from their initial email, typos and all:
“Our Team has significant Experience to add 5 star Reviews on Google, Face book, rip-off, yelp, trip adviser, scam book etc. to enhance your online reputation with Positive comments, reviews and posts. Enhancing the impression created by your search results, will help you achieve a HIGHER Sales Conversion rate (both Online and Offline).
“We have expertise in following functional domains for Businesses and Individual level:–
- Positive 5 Star Facebook Reviews
- Positive 5 Star Google Reviews
- Positive 5 Star Trip Advisor Reviews
- Positive 5 Star Yelp Reviews
“Please let us know if you are interested in Online Reputation Management. We have 100% Success Rate and ready to sign Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
“Please feel free to reach us for more information on pricing and references.”
I replied to them to get pricing information and asked about discounts for a larger quantity of reviews. And this is what they said a few days later:
“Thanks for your Response!!!
“We are India based freelancers working with clients in Australia, USA and Canada right now.
“I WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU WHAT WE CAN DO?
“We can write some quality reviews for your business and post on your Business Page with our software which will use different locations near your company location to post reviews which will create trust and endorse your business.
“We charge 100 USD for 10 Google and 10 Facebook reviews
“We can give you guarantees for our reviews.
“If you have any queries, please let me know. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.”
That’s either $5 per review or $10 per review, depending on what they meant. Either way, it’s a deal: 20 beautiful 5-star reviews, for $100 or $200, to help you sell root canals or cars or whatever, for years to come. And it’s great if you need to drown out some legitimate 1-star reviews.
Their tech solution to the IP address issue.
These good folks in India even have a tech solution (“software”) to make the fake reviews seem un-fake by using a fake location, “which will create trust and endorse your business.” To repeat that paragraph above:
“We can write some quality reviews for your business and post on your Business Page with our software which will use different locations near your company location to post reviews which will create trust and endorse your business.”
This “software” allows them to post the reviews from India, but they seemingly appear to be posted at locations near my Wolf Street media mogul empire headquarters in San Francisco.
Here is the problem that fake reviews can face: The people who post the fake reviews, their address on the internet is an IP address, a unique number that belongs to their internet service provider and is associated with their geographical location.
For example, Wolf Street receives a lot of spam comments (that are blocked). Each one has an IP address that allows me to check the geographic area where the spam got on the internet. For example, one of them had an IP address (126.96.36.199) that belongs to internet service provider Mobilink Mobile Internet in Pakistan, and the IP address is from its group of IP addresses in Lahore:
So, the gorgeous 5-star reviews of the Wolf Street beer mugs would obviously have been posted in India by the good folks selling this service. And that needs to be fixed.
I don’t know what “software” the good folks in India would be using to make their IP addresses appear to be from San Francisco. I can think of two potential solutions, and there could be other solutions.
Maybe they’re using IP address spoofing. But there are defenses against it, and I doubt it would work on Google.
Or maybe they’re using a VPN, a perfectly legal service that makes communication on the internet more secure. A VPN service provider uses internet access servers around the globe, and their clients can often choose what region the IP address should be associated with. The folks in India might use a VPN service that allows them to choose IP addresses in the San Francisco Bay Area.
So next time you see those innumerable slightly bizarre 5-star reviews that you’ve been taking with a grain of salt for years, you can put a dollar-figure on them.
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