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Fake Google reviews targeting Colorado businesses

After Contact Denver7 made calls, Google took down several low reviews
google review
Posted at 6:37 PM, Jun 26, 2023

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — When you're looking for a reliable company, you may check out their Google reviews.

But leaving fake Google reviews has become a booming business, for five-star reviews to boost a company's web traffic and one-star reviews to downgrade the competition. That's hurting Colorado businesses and consumers.

At Precision Door Fort Collins, Tyler and Anna Hockman are partners in business and in life — the husband and wife team has built a strong business and strong reputation over the last four years. But their Google reviews told another story.

About a year ago, they noticed a one-star review from a customer they had never heard of, and after that, the fake bad reviews kept trickling in.

The fake reviews had real results: dropping the company's rating from five stars to 4.7.

"The higher your rating with Google, the more likely you are to show first when a customer types in a search for our services," said Anna Hockman, "It directly drives how much traffic we get for our business."

Fake Google reviews go both ways: fake five-star reviews boost business.

"It's become almost a game, and it's extremely common," said Jason Brown, who works as a consumer advocate with The Transparency Company, which helps businesses identify fake reviews.

Fake Google reviews targeting Colorado businesses

Recently, he said a group of Denver-area restaurants were hit with dozens of fake five-star reviews. One profile uses Tom Cruise's picture. Yet, Brown said, Google's algorithm did not catch the fakes.

"I had a eureka moment when I realized that four other garage door businesses in Fort Collins were getting peppered with these low reviews," said Brown, who said the fake reviews have serious consequences. "People don't know what to trust anymore. If a normal person in marketing can look and say, 'Oh, these are fake reviews,' how come a tech giant can't do a better job of policing it?"

Brown pointed out that under pressure from the Federal Trade Commission and lawmakers, Google and Amazon are now suing people accused of creating fake businesses and reviews.

"The platforms are starting to do something, but only because they're being forced to," said Brown.

After Contact Denver7 contacted Google about Precision Doors Fort Collins' fake reviews, the Hockmans said nine of them were taken down. The company's Google rating went back to five stars.

"We are so grateful to you for putting a spotlight on this," said Anna Hockman. "Not only for businesses around the country but for the consumer who's putting so much trust in either a fake five star or a fake one star."

Tips To Screen Out Fake Reviews:

  • Look for bad grammar or spelling
  • Check profiles for celebrity photos or several reviews for the same kind of company (such as garage doors)
  • Question very generic or vague praise or criticism (usually real people have specific examples).

Google did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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