It's a Jungle Out There: Spotting Fake Reviews
It’s an old admonishment, but now, more than ever, you really can’t believe everything you read. Exploring the jungle of the web, I’ve found a lot of places that look intriguing, but are actually traps for the unwary.
No, I’m not talking about poisonous multi-level marketing come-ons, or religious or political voodoo diatribes. I’m talking about reviews touting Amazon products, forum discussions endorsing hotels or restaurants, and even blog posts offering apparently sensible advice — all written by people who were paid to say it. In fact, what you read may be someone else’s words, stolen, rearranged, and used with new meaning to fit the site or circumstance. (See also: 6 Ways to Spot Work-at-Home Job Scams)
I was looking at freelance jobs offered at vWorker, Elance, and oDesk. As I thrashed my way through the sites, chopping away at the underbrush so I could see the treasures, I found all kinds of task-oriented work such as designing logos, building websites, collecting data, transcribing documents, and writing stories. But, like any public market, you may find both jewels and junk.
One employer was looking for someone to write 20 "articles" for a shopping website with titles such as “I’m looked (sic) to buy the best LCD TV.” The writer, paradoxically, had to promote a certain model and brand, not ask for advice, and make it appear to be a genuine question from a genuine forum member.
So how can you protect yourself?
If someone’s forum post or comment sounds more like a sales pitch than a question, search for that person's online name, and see if he's infested other places on the web with their poison. Include "scam" in your search, and see what pops up.
Whenever you log onto the Internet, imagine yourself as an explorer in an information jungle. Before you is a whole world of exciting places to explore, but many are not what they seem. Take precautions, and it can be a wonderful visit.
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