How We Fight Fraud

While people increasingly turn to online consumer reviews for recommendations, by next year one in 10 of those reviews could be a fake, according to a 2012 Gartner tech research report.

From restaurants and hotels to doctors and lawyers, more brands and reputation management companies have resorted to astroturfing, paying for positive online reviews of their companies.

According to a 2011 Harvard Business School study, restaurants that raise their Yelp ranking by one star can increase revenue 5 to 9 percent. This is no small change.

The Federal Trade Commission has begun cracking down on deceptive companies. And in September, New York regulators announced the most comprehensive crackdown to date on deceptive online reviews, reaching agreements with and charging penalties to 19 companies.

Amid all of this, personal recommendations and online reviews are still the most trusted consumer resources (see sidebar).

Trailspace remains dedicated to sharing unbiased, independent gear reviews and experiences with our community members and readers

Unfortunately, fraud happens, but we believe in the value of honest word of mouth.

So, we devote significant time and resources to stop fraud and preserve the credibility we share with you, our members, readers, and reviewers. 

Things we do to prevent deceptive reviews: 

  • We publish and enforce our Community Rules and Guidelines and Review Rules and Guidelines.
  • We stop countless spam reviews from ever appearing on the site, and ban fraudulent IP addresses.
  • A real person on the Trailspace staff—that's me!—reads every review.
  • While anyone can share his or her gear experience, good or bad, we require full disclosure and transparency of every Trailspace reviewer.
  • We follow up on any review that raises a flag, particularly on issues of disclosure. Social media coordinator for the company? Tested a free sample for your friend? PR rep for the competition? If a reviewer is connected to a brand or its competitor, we require that info be divulged in the review and on the reviewer's profile.
  • We add Brand Rep and Retailer badges to profiles of known outdoor industry insiders, like outdoor retailers, brand reps and ambassadors. (Let us know if your profile needs one.)
  • We follow FTC endorsement and testimonial guidelines with Review Corps reviews, divulging where any samples tested were acquired.
  • We find and ban users who create multiple accounts or otherwise try to game the reviewer reputation system.
  • If a reviewer is not forthcoming about his or her relationships and activity, we remove his or her reviews.

While we can't tell you everything we do to help prevent deceptive practices, we continually work to improve our ways of preventing and detecting fraudulent activity. For example, we're preparing to launch a flagging system so community members can more easily report suspected deception to moderators.

We value honesty on Trailspace. And thankfully, we're not alone. Anti-fraud filters and academic and tech research are advancing the fight against fake reviews and opinion spam. 

In 2011, Cornell University researchers devised algorithms to detect fake hotel reviews with 90 percent accuracy. You can test it at reviewskeptic.com. And tech companies like Google and Microsoft have sponsored research on the subject, to name just a few efforts.

Credibility is invaluable, online and off. And we share our credibility with you, our reviewers, members, and readers. That's why we'll make every effort to ensure the outdoor gear reviews and recommendations you read on Trailspace are worth your trust.


Filed under: Gear Reviews, Trailspace News

Comments

Eric Labanauskas
BRAND REP TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
1,988 reviewer rep
476 forum posts
October 30, 2013 at 11:08 a.m. (EDT)

Happy to hear it, Alicia! Not that I assumed y'all weren't already minding the shop, but it's work like the aforementioned that maintains the high level of credibility Trailspace reviewers have. That said, much appreciate the work y'all do!

Karman
33 reviewer rep
21 forum posts
October 30, 2013 at 10:00 p.m. (EDT)

What's the world coming to when you need to waste the time to deal with this kind of thing?  Thank you for your vigilance in keeping your credibility up above the rest.  I don't review a lot of stuff, but I do it with pride here at Trailspace.  My review of Trailspace if I could review Trailspace for Trailspace would be one word- "Rockin'!!!"  Thanks for all you do!!!

gregf
BRAND REP
3 reviewer rep
6 forum posts
October 30, 2013 at 11:24 p.m. (EDT)

Great piece on an ongoing issue. I'm the chief janitor for innate, we provide our travel essentials to a wide range of folks for testing and on adventures in keeping with our design philosophy of leaner cleaner greener. When we get asked "what do you want in exchange", we tell them, "use it! Tell us what you think and if you like our gear, recommend it to family and friends; if you are inclined, write a review on sites like Trailspace" At no time do we preview or provide any influence on direction nor text for reviewers. In august 2013 i reached out to the trailspace team and asked their advice to ensure our practices were aligned with their internal policies. The trailspace team noted that any reviews for gear that was not paid for need to be identified as such. We fully support and agree with this level of transparency. Now if we could just do something about how products are indexed on trailspace :) Keep up the great work and thanks for letting us be part of your community.

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
588 reviewer rep
3,053 forum posts
October 31, 2013 at 7:06 a.m. (EDT)

Thanks for the comments.

I agree it is unfortunate that this is an issue that needs to be dealt with, but it's necessary to face it head on.

I think it's also good to remember that more people and companies behave responsibly than not. After all, it's in your best long-term interest to be credible and build up a real, worthwhile reputation (at least in my opinion). Let's hope that the added attention on the issue and the values of honesty and transparency can push back in the right direction.

FYI, for anyone wondering, we have profile badges for the following:

  • Retailers
  • Brand Reps
  • Non-profits
  • Guides/Outfitters

You can see the Brand Rep one on Greg's profile above. Just let us know if you should have one.

Thanks!

thetentman
RETAILER
5 reviewer rep
47 forum posts
October 31, 2013 at 9:02 a.m. (EDT)

This is a great site. Thanks to your diligence I have a high confidence rate that what I read here is true.

 

DrPhun
21 reviewer rep
37 forum posts
October 31, 2013 at 6:02 p.m. (EDT)

I'll say that as a consumer, it's not that hard to spot fake reviews and it's possible to use reviews in a way where fraud has little effect.  First I look to the text, and don't put too much weight on the number of stars (although I do like to read really low rated reviews to see what got the person so upset.)   In the text I like to see what the person liked and didn't like.  Sometimes the thing they didn't like isn't something that matters to me.  Sometimes it is something that matters to me a lot that I hadn't even thought of.  For example, I have short arms so a review that indicates a sweater's arms run short is very positive to me.  

But anyway, fake reviews are easy to spot.  Most people are not too articulate and don't write that well.  Even when they do, real people don't write like marketers.  Most real reviews, even when they are positive, find something they don't like.  The fake reviewers will leave that out.  The fake reviewers never poke fun at the product - that would piss off the sponsors who don't have sense of humor when it comes to their product (the ones that do have a sense of humor aren't the ones that feel a need to pimp their products.)  I think a lot of fake reviewers have proofreaders, too, so nothing is out of place - you will see that I am missing some commas because I don't care that much.

My wife and I have a game we invented on road trips.  As we pass motels, we guess whether the reviews are good or not.  Then while I drive, my wife pulls them up and reads them out loud to see who is right.  The second part of the game, is where we guess which reviews are fake.  I remember one motel we passed where there were a lot of reviews that were lukewarm at best (most talked about the noise from the highway, but that it was cheap, in the right place and somewhat clean) except for two positive reviews.  One was from a truck driver whose review mostly centered around how friendly the blond housekeeper was - I guess he got some.  The other one was so obviously fake, using comments like exceptional and best night sleep ever.

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
588 reviewer rep
3,053 forum posts
November 1, 2013 at 10:03 a.m. (EDT)

Related to this topic, you might find interesting the following pieces about Amazon's Vine review program from NPR's Planet Money:

North1
210 reviewer rep
179 forum posts
November 1, 2013 at 10:52 a.m. (EDT)

Thanks, Alicia (and all the staff on Trailspace). As I stated before, keep up the good work!

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
588 reviewer rep
3,053 forum posts
November 1, 2013 at 11:04 a.m. (EDT)

You're welcome, North1.

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