On a scale of one to ten, how trusted are Amazon reviews? Well, you should add a star to that number, because the etail giant has taken up arms against professional spam reviewers and launched a lawsuit against over 1000 of them.
In this particular case, the spammers made it easy by explicitly advertising five star Amazon reviews, on the bottom-fishing freelance site Fiverr. Some of the ads clearly indicated that the poster knew the actions were deceptive, offering multiple sock puppet accounts with different IP addresses which would appear to Amazon’s security systems like several different people.
Thing is, Amazon’s security people can read. And when you offer fraud as a service, on a platform tied to your bank account, they can find you and they can sue you, and that’s just what they’ve done. Oh, they haven’t done all the homework yet (the defendants are all John Does for now), but their subpoenas to Fiverr will do the work for them over time.
Make no mistake: while Fiverr is a significant source of fake reviews, it is not the only one. Many an apparently-reputable social media marketing company offers this service on the downlow; why do you think so many Yelp reviews of different places sound so similar? But tracking those down is a lot harder and needs to be done account-by-account. Much easier for Amazon to sue the people sticking their necks out and offering these fraudulent services than to look at every individual Amazon account for fraud.
Amazon is seeking unspecified damages, to be determined by the judge, and specifically asking for treble damages, ie three times what a judge feels they have legitimately lost because of the fraudsters. Today there will be much clutching of pearls and fainting on couches in the shadier reaches of the e-marketing world. At $5 per review, it’s not likely any of these guys can afford a lawyer, much less treble damages.