Monday, August 26, 2013

The evolution of review fraud

According to a former Amazon insider, Amazon's own internal memos state up to 60% of reviews on its site aren't genuine. The reviews aren't real opinions from real readers. They are faked, bought/sold, solicited, swapped/traded.

Is it any wonder then that Zon Alert bloggers stumbled onto a massive fake review operation run by self-published Carolyn Arnold, involving dozens of Arnold's author friends.

The massive operation with self-published Carolyn Arnold at the center of it worked like this: The authors acted as each others' fan base, writing many reviews of each others' books under their own names and assumed names on Amazon. Using their own names and assumed names, they wrote each others' reviews on Goodreads, became each others' fans on Goodreads, rated each others' books on Goodreads.

As it progressed the authors recruited family members to write reviews of the other authors' books. Family members had already been writing reviews for the authors themselves.

It went on and on until these authors had amassed hundreds of reviews, hundreds of ratings - as Zon Alert bloggers watched them talk and boast about their activities on social media.

Parts of the operation were much like a pyramid scheme. Authors at the bottom of the scheme recruited new authors to the top of the scheme. As the authors at the bottom of the scheme became increasingly successful, the scheme slowed, however, leaving authors at the top of the scheme with less and less until parts of the scheme crumbled.

Carolyn Arnold's activities also led Zon Alert bloggers to the activities of Melissa Foster, Wendy Higgins, A M Hargrove, Linda S Prather, Elizabeth Reyes, and others who had their own "networks" and who also were buying reviews from known paid reviewers.

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