New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Monday that 19 companies have been fined for hiring freelance writers to post fraudulent reviews on Yelp.
The companies will pay more than $350,000 in fines ($2,500 to $100,000 apice) and have all signed agreements to end writing the fake reviews.
“Operation Clean Turf” was a year-long investigation conducted by Schneiderman to expose companies accused of paying freelancers to write favorable reviews on Yelp.
Businesses would bribe customers in some cases, promising gift cards in return for favorable reviews.
“They also went on review sites that criticized their own fake-review operations and wrote fake reviews denying they wrote fake reviews,” the NY Times wrote.
Some requests for reviewers were sloppy, as an ad for a New York City spa exhibited.
“I need someone who is a YELP expert to post positive reviews for a spa that will not be filtered,” the ad reads, “using legitimate existing yelp accounts must have at least 10 friends on Yelp.”
Many of the businesses that used fake reviewers are places where bad reviews could lead to a nightmare, like Lite Touch Plastic Surgery.
According to a study conducted by Gartner, between 10 and 15 percent of social media reviews will be fake by 2014.