Fast Guard

In today’s digital age, Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Google reviews play a crucial role in shaping a business’s reputation. Positive reviews can boost a company’s credibility and attract new customers, while negative reviews can deter potential clients and harm business prospects. However, some companies exploit these platforms to commit larceny against competitors, manipulating reviews to gain an unfair advantage. As a reputation manager for one of the nation’s largest firms, I have seen firsthand the devastating impact of such practices. This article outlines how these schemes work and what you can do to protect your business.

Understanding Review Manipulation

Larceny via Reviews

Larceny, in the context of business reputation, refers to the fraudulent manipulation of reviews to harm competitors or falsely enhance a company’s own image. This can include posting fake negative reviews to damage a competitor’s reputation or purchasing positive reviews to artificially inflate one’s own ratings.

Common Tactics Used

Fake Negative Reviews

One common tactic is posting fake negative reviews about competitors. These reviews can include false claims about poor service, product defects, or unethical business practices. The goal is to deter potential customers and erode trust in the competitor.

Positive Review Scams

Another tactic involves buying positive reviews. Companies may pay individuals or use automated bots to post glowing reviews, creating an illusion of excellence. This deceptive practice can mislead consumers and provide an unfair competitive edge.

Use of Bots and Purchased Reviews

Automated bots and purchased reviews are frequently used to flood review platforms with either negative or positive reviews. These reviews often use generic language and are posted in rapid succession, making them difficult to distinguish from legitimate feedback.

Case Studies

Real-world Examples

Example 1: Small Business Hit by Fake Negative Reviews

A small business owner I worked with experienced a sudden influx of negative reviews, all of which contained similar language and complaints. Upon investigation, it was clear these reviews were fake, posted by a competitor. The impact was immediate: a drop in customer inquiries and sales, and a significant hit to the business’s reputation.

Example 2: Company Caught Buying Positive Reviews

In another case, a company was caught buying positive reviews to improve its ratings. Once exposed, the company faced backlash from both customers and regulatory bodies, leading to a tarnished reputation and legal consequences.

Analysis of the Impact

The impact of such review manipulation can be severe. Businesses may experience:

  • Financial Loss: Reduced customer trust can lead to decreased sales and revenue.
  • Customer Trust Erosion: Once customers suspect review manipulation, their trust in the business can be irreparably damaged.
  • Long-term Reputational Damage: Rebuilding a tarnished reputation can take years and significant investment.

Identifying and Combating Review Manipulation

Spotting Fake Reviews

To protect your business, it’s essential to spot fake reviews. Look for:

  • Generic Language: Reviews that use non-specific language and lack details.
  • Sudden Spikes: Unusual increases in the number of reviews within a short period.
  • Patterns: Similar phrasing or language across multiple reviews.

Reporting and Removing Fake Reviews

If you identify fake reviews, take action by reporting them to BBB and Google:

  • BBB: File a complaint through the BBB website, providing evidence of the fake reviews.
  • Google: Use the “Flag as inappropriate” option to report suspicious reviews. Follow up with detailed information via Google’s support channels.

Legal Actions

In severe cases, consider pursuing legal action against the perpetrators. Consult with legal experts to explore options such as defamation lawsuits or seeking injunctions to stop ongoing review manipulation.

Proactive Measures for Protecting Your Business

Encouraging Genuine Reviews

One of the best defenses against review manipulation is encouraging genuine reviews from satisfied customers. Implement strategies such as:

  • Post-Purchase Requests: Ask customers to leave reviews after their purchase.
  • Follow-Up Emails: Send follow-up emails requesting feedback.
  • Incentives: Offer small incentives, like discounts, for leaving honest reviews.

Monitoring and Responding to Reviews

Set up alerts for new reviews and monitor them regularly. Respond to negative reviews professionally, addressing concerns and showing that you value customer feedback.

Utilizing Reputation Management Services

Consider hiring a reputation management firm to safeguard your business’s online presence. These firms offer services such as:

  • Monitoring: Continuous tracking of reviews across multiple platforms.
  • Analysis: Identifying patterns and potential manipulation.
  • Response Strategies: Developing effective responses to both positive and negative reviews.


The manipulation of BBB and Google reviews to commit larceny against businesses is a growing concern. By understanding the tactics used, identifying fake reviews, and implementing proactive measures, you can protect your business from these fraudulent activities. Stay vigilant, encourage genuine feedback, and consider professional reputation management services to ensure your business’s reputation remains intact. By doing so, you can maintain customer trust and secure your place in the market.

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