Trustpilot’s Compliance Team has uncovered a network of freelancer profiles offering to write fake reviews on Trustpilot. The profiles were listed on Fiverr.com®, an online marketplace for digital services. The investigation led to all 83 profiles being removed, and Trustpilot believes that continued efforts to fight fraud will help stem both the supply of, and demand for fake reviews.
“It’s great to see that our hard work in this area is paying off. Fake reviews are not just a problem for Trustpilot, but for the entire industry. We invest significantly in combatting fraud, and these kinds of investigations are a crucial part of our ongoing fight against fake reviews,” says Kasper Heine, Head of Trust and Transparency at Trustpilot.
Uncovering the network
During a series of systematic checks, one of Trustpilot’s Fraud Detection Specialists repeatedly came across similar profiles on Fiverr. It wasn’t long before he began piecing together a large network of freelancers, all offering to write fake reviews on Trustpilot. The similarities were striking. Out of the 66 profiles originally found, 45 of them used the same or a similar text in their ad description, and many of the profiles had the same profile picture and/or banner photo for their ad.
The connections indicated that a large group of freelancers could have been working together to acquire ‘Gigs®’ (as they’re called on Fiverr). It’s also likely that the same person or group was behind multiple profiles. This kind of activity is a clear violation of Fiverr’s Terms of Service and Trustpilot contacted Fiverr with detailed information outlining the discovery.
Fraud detection at Trustpilot
Trustpilot has a variety of different initiatives to fight fraud. Our advanced, customised software works around the clock to identify suspicious reviews. Together with the software, the Compliance Team assesses more than 25,000 reviews each month and investigates all reports of misuse from our community.
Trustpilot’s Fraud Detection Specialists go a step further, and work to identify fake reviews and fraud before it makes its way to Trustpilot. Working closely with the Legal Department, they monitor sites where companies are known to look for, and buy fake reviews, often written by freelancers.
When they come across an ad for a fake Trustpilot review or a profile that looks very suspicious, they alert the site-host and ask for the ad or entire profile to be removed. As a part of the process, they also compare what they find with existing reviews and profiles on Trustpilot, to make sure any fake reviews or profiles are removed.
A ‘win’ in the fight against fake reviews
After receiving Trustpilot’s request, Fiverr responded quickly. It removed the original 66 profiles, and identified an additional 17 profiles that were deleted on the basis of Trustpilot’s findings. All in all, 83 Fiverr profiles were investigated.
“This is a big win for us. Removing a profile gets us closer to the root of the problem. When an ad is removed, it’s relatively easy for the freelancer to quickly post a new one. But when a profile is removed, the freelancer has to start from scratch, as their previous gigs, experience, training and reviews of their service have been deleted,” says Rob Smorenburg, Fraud Detection Specialist at Trustpilot.
Stop buying fake reviews
Advertising for or buying fake reviews is illegal. These practices undermine the foundation of our industry and conflict with Trustpilot’s core values. Trustpilot encourages companies to enter into a dialogue with their customers rather than being tempted by fake reviews. There are no shortcuts to building a strong online reputation, but it can definitely be done.
At Trustpilot, the key to a great TrustScore is great customer service. If companies actively engage with their customers, respond to reviews and make improvements based on customer feedback, they’re likely to see these efforts reflected in the reviews they receive, and their TrustScore. Trustpilot has created a range of resources to help companies engage with their customers, improve their customer service and build their online reputation — and they’re free.