Consumers Risk Their Vacations When Relying on Online Travel Reviews

by Cheryl Rosen

Consumers who rely on online review sites to plan their vacation might want to check with a professional travel agent before they pluck down their hard-earned money. Today, you can buy anything online, including positive reviews for your travel business.

Just as the sharing economy has created websites that connect potential buyers and sellers of apartments, it’s also created some that connect buyers and sellers of personal services of all kinds. And on those sites lurk thousands of unscrupulous folks who will pay someone a few dollars to post some five-star comments about their products.

To that end, Amazon in October made news when it sued 1,000 users of Fiverr.com, a freelance website where people offer to do jobs for as little as $5—including writing positive reviews of things they have never used. Often the suppliers actually wrote the reviews themselves; the freelancers simply posted them.

"While small in number, these reviews can significantly undermine the trust that consumers and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers place in Amazon, which in turn tarnishes Amazon's brand," the Amazon complaint said. But of course, the question remains just how “small in number” those fake complaints are.

Even today, it’s not hard to imagine that Ivana28, who’s willing to “promote your website” for $5, might agree to post a positive review. Or you can just hire Sampath0 to “create a Facebook or twitter fan page.”

In light of the lawsuit—and even before, when the FTC made it clear that fake posts are against the law—the business of fake reviews is an underground economy.

At the same time The Daily Mail recently reported the travel industry is a prime target; it found a woman willing to post a positive hotel review to a place she never visited on Trip Advisor for $5. The paper said the fake review industry is putting at risk over $35 billion in annual vacations by Britons.

Below is a small sampling uncovered by Travel Market Report on some freelance websites:

Try our products and leave a review

Hourly - Entry Level ($) - Est. Time: More than 6 months, 10-30 hrs/week - Posted 21 hours ago

We are looking for people in the US who would like to help us with our product testing. Its extremely simple, we will tell you the product and all you need to do is buy it review it and leave feedback about it. We are looking for a few people to help us. If your (sic) interested please apply. All purchases and product costs are covered by us. Thank you.

Write 8 reviews for different businesses

Fixed-Price - Est. Budget: $7 - Posted 3 hours ago

Looking for someone to write 8 reviews for different businesses. Must be able to follow basic instructions

Number of freelancers needed: 3

Total Hires: 98

Online Reviews

Fixed-Price - Est. Budget: $5 - Posted 2 days ago

I need people to do favourable reviews of a business. Must be 4 or 5 star reviews. A list outlining the things you can cover in your review will be provided. Price is for ONE review to be placed on FOUR different networks.

Number of freelancers needed: 50

need 50+ different Amazon reviews for one product

Hourly - Est. Time: Less than 1 month, 10-30 hrs/week - Posted 7 days ago

I am selling a product on Amazon and need 50 or more reviews. They will all need to be different from different users in places all over the US and world. Please describe how you will go about this and how long it will take you.

Total Hires: 24

Writing Google Business Reviews

Hourly - Entry Level ($) - Est. Time: 3 to 6 months, Less than 10 hrs/week - Posted 25 days ago

I do a lot of work with clients to write reviews for their Google Business pages. I am looking to get some help in writing this reviews. I'll be giving you all info you need to write the review. MUST MUST MUST have English as your PRIMARY language. MUST be able to visit a Google Business page, read what it's about, read other reviewers content, and use that context to write a relevant review that makes sense, and is grammatically correct. 

Number of freelancers needed: 5

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