Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.
– Walter Scott
We’ve noticed a developing trend in user reviews in which some providers are attempting to leave fake testimonials on our review of their company. Due to this problem, we have developed a new policy on how we will handle these attempts going forward.
Our former policy was to deny publishing of fake testimonials; however, as the problem became more frequent and we noticed the same fake testimonials on other websites, it became apparent that we should classify this tactic as a form of deceptive marketing and identify the companies utilizing it.
This new policy accomplishes a few objectives: First, it discourages companies and agents from attempting to leave bogus testimonials on CPO. Second, it highlights the companies that may be engaging in unethical marketing (Leaders Merchant Services is a good example of a company that appears to be doing this. You can find several bogus testimonials in the comment section of their review as well as very similar examples on other websites). In fact, we have caught one provider hiring people on fiverr.com to specifically leave fake testimonials on our reviews.
Our experience is that small business owners love free promotion, so there is no reason for them to want to remain anonymous when leaving a testimonial. Unless, of course, it is a fake.
What About Fake Negative Reviews?
Providers love to claim that “most” of the negative reviews about their company are left by competitors. Our data, however, shows that this claim simply is not valid. Why isn’t it? For one, there are literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, of merchant services providers. It is a fruitless and wasteful use of resources to go around publishing hundreds of fake negative reviews regarding several hundred different companies. Where do you begin? Which companies do you choose to attack? Not only is it not feasible, but you could be sued for defamation if you are caught doing it. It is incredibly stupid to engage in such a tactic and it is a poor excuse for explaining why a company has negative reviews.
We use a variety of tools and tactics to identify potentially fake reviews. The truth is, we actually deny publishing of nearly half of all negative review attempts on the site. Why? It is not because the reviews are fake but because they do not provide enough detail about their experience or provide any other useful information to other readers. We only want to publish reviews that appear to be legitimate and provide an authentic first-hand account of the experience. We have programs available for providers to resolve grievances and challenge the validity of published complaints.
Authentication of Negative Reviewers
Another reason we do not require negative reviewers to publicly identify themselves is due to our own experience with a few unethical providers who resort to threats and intimidation in an attempt to coerce us into removing reviews or changing ratings. Like the United States Government, we have a “never negotiate with terrorists” policy and these threats never work with us. We also have a clear understanding of the laws regarding consumer reviews and review content, which is rarely the case with small business owners to whom aggressively worded threats can seem frightening. We have seen providers not only threaten reviewers with baseless lawsuits, but also attempt to frighten them by posing as other merchants and concocting stories about how they lost a suit or were raided by the FBI (yes, a provider actually tried this) because of their review on CPO.
Due the actions of a few unscrupulous companies, we have instituted a policy that allows for the public facing information about the reviewer to be anonymous. We prefer that reviewers identify themselves, but do not require it. If a provider believes an anonymous review is fake, we encourage them to reach out to us.
We try to to be fair to both providers and reviewers. We give providers avenues to resolve complaints and defend themselves from unsubstantiated negative reviews. We do not believe that it is helpful to allow anyone and everyone with a bone to pick to go out and trash-talk a company. If your company is receiving a lot of negative reviews on our site, don’t blame us. Listen to the complaints, look at your policies, and eliminate the practices that may make you a lot of money in the short-term but irreparably damage your brand in the long-term.