How Yelp is weeding out fake reviews


A March day got off to a bad start for Scott Willis and his mother with a minor car accident, but got worse when he went to a local care clinic called First Choice Emergency Room for treatment of his bruises.

“We might see something on Craiglist saying, ‘Hey, I’m offering $20 for positive reviews on Yelp.’ … Odds are we’re going to be among the first people to respond to that offer on Craigslist or Fiver or wherever else it may be,” MacBean said.

Other companies are taking action as well. Amazon has sued more than 1,000 people in the past year for allegedly selling fake reviews.

“The worst problem is the purely fake reviews. They are just made up,” said Mary Engle with the Federal Trade Commission, which tracks deceptive practices.

“Consumers need to know whether these reviews are independent, truly independent, or not … Over 70 percent of consumers look at online reviews before they make purchases, so it is very important,” Engle said.

In the first two days of this month, Yelp flagged 59 businesses including the clinic Willis said offered him the Starbucks gift card. CBS News stopped in to ask First Choice Emergency Room about their Yelp offer but were told to contact their corporate headquarters. We reached out to that clinic’s corporate headquarters as directed but got no response.

“You’re really hoping, whether it’s positive or negative, to really get the factual information so you can make the best decision on where you choose to go get treated at or use your services at,” Willis said.

There are a couple things you can do to try to determine if a review is real: check to see how many reviews the person has written — Yelp says if they only write one positive review of a single business, that may not be as reliable — and read reviews that offer more detail to get more specifics on positives and negatives of a particular business.