Valerie Zhong, the administrator of the Club Ki-Fair group on Facebook, made a simple commitment: Join her group and get free samples of household products. The generous offer promised to put hair care products, nail polishes and coffee makers into the hands of members.
There was, of course, a catch. Club members had to buy the products and write a review for Amazon, where they were sold. Then, the purchases would be refunded.
“In this group, we will always offer you wonderful and excellent products for free trial,” Zhong posted to Club Ki-Fair. She didn’t say the reviews needed to be positive, but the group’s members showed nothing but excitement for the products she offered.
Club Ki-Fair’s product-for-endorsement operation is hardly unique. Bogus reviews are a major problem for Amazon, which prohibits “incentivized” write-ups. The e-commerce giant acknowledged the scope of the issue in a June 16 blog post, saying Amazon had ramped up its efforts to detect coordinated activity that organizes fake reviews. Last year, the company removed 200 million suspected fake reviews before they could be posted to pages for products listed by one of 1.9 million third-party sellers on the platform. The company’s algorithms sweep the site for suspicious behavior, like a cluster of new customer accounts that review the same products.
The problem, however, doesn’t end. It just moves to forums like the one Zhong oversees.
“We have seen an increasing trend of bad actors attempting to solicit fake reviews outside Amazon, particularly via social media services,” the blog post read. “Some use social media services on their own; in other cases, they hire a third-party service provider to perpetrate this activity on their behalf.”
Amazon avoided naming any social media companies, but the activity is easy to find on Facebook. I witnessed it after getting accepted into Club Ki-Fair, which I’d been monitoring for several weeks. I didn’t review any products or accept any refunds. After this story was published, the Facebook group disappeared from the social media site, and products from Fairywill, Kipozi and Sboly — all brands promoted on the group page or by its administrators on their personal pages — were no longer listed on Amazon. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on why the listings were gone…Read more>>