Amazon has filed lawsuits against two websites that it accuses of orchestrating fake reviews in return for money and free products. The suit charges that AppSally and Rebatest are misleading shoppers by promoting fake reviews on Amazon, eBay, Walmart and Etsy.
“Fake review brokers attempt to profit by deceiving unknowing consumers and creating an unfair competitive advantage that harms our selling partners,” said Dharmesh Mehta, an Amazon executive. “We know how valuable trustworthy reviews are to our customers. … While we prevent millions of suspicious reviews from ever appearing in our store, these lawsuits target the source.”
Amazon said that AppSally allows merchants to buy favorable Amazon reviews for as little as $20. Rebatest allegedly asks users to buy a product from Amazon and promises to refund the cost of the product in exchange for a good review.
It’s the latest attempt to shut down illegal and dishonest activity on the Internet. Along with schemes that inflate audience figures, cheat advertisers and steal personal information, the Internet has become a thieves alley, where technically skilled fraudsters operate on the theory that if they can figure out to do something, it must be OK to do so.
A particularly nefarious industry has emerged in recent years, in which fraudsters use bribery to facilitate fake or inflated reviews.
Amazon uses a combination of machine learning technology and skilled investigators to detect, prevent, and remove bogus reviews. In 2020, Amazon said it stopped more than 200 million suspected fake reviews before they were published.
$20 for a review
The suit charges that AppSally sells fake reviews for as low as at $20 and instructs bad actors to ship empty boxes to people willing to write fake reviews, and to provide AppSally with photos to be uploaded alongside their reviews.
Rebatest will only pay people writing 5-star reviews after their fake reviews are approved by the bad actors attempting to sell those items, the suit alleges.
The sites don’t exactly hide their activities but describe them as legitimate offerings. AppSally says it provides “services to help you outrank your competitors from your bedroom.” Rebatest promises a “100% cashback for shopping online.”