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Do you rely on product reviews to decide if something is good enough to try or buy? Real product reviews are great at helping us make better informed decisions. But you might wonder if some of these reviews – on websites, in blogs and on social media – are from real customers who used the product. And you should, because some companies use fake reviews to paint a pretty picture and boost their bottom line.

According to an FTC lawsuit, Sunday Riley Modern Skincare, which sells cosmetics through Sephora and other retail chains, decided that fakery was the way to go. The FTC says that the CEO herself, Sunday Riley, and other company managers created Sephora.com accounts and, posing as customers, wrote positive reviews for their own products and encouraged other company employees to do so. But that’s not all. When Sephora removed fake reviews coming from Sunday Riley’s IP address, what did Sunday Riley and her staff do in response? According to the FTC’s complaint, they got even sneakier, using a Virtual Private Network to hide their identity so the fake reviews could keep on coming.

The FTC’s settlement with the company says that it will be subject to civil penalties if it engages in similar deceptive conduct in the future.

The next time you plan to buy anything based on online reviews:

  • Consider the source of the reviews before deciding to buy or pass. Reviews from trusted and impartial experts and organizations are likely worth more than a single customer review or one found on a website you’ve never heard of.
  • Compare online reviews from more than one source. You can get a better idea about a company, product, or service from reading reviews on several types of websites, including retail or shopping comparison sites. Also check out trusted sites that specialize in reviewing products with expert reviews and comparisons.

For more information, check out this video.

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