Estate and letting agency review site raterAgent says an analysis of its own website suggests that 17 per cent, or just over one in six, are fake - and it says it will name the culprits.
raterAgent claims these are typically by estate and letting agents themselves, or someone that they know, aiming to falsify their or their competitors’ reputation.
“It’s one of the reasons why we welcome the investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority into review websites, announced last week” says Mal McCallion, the site’s co-founder and chief executive.
In raterAgent’s analysis 78 per cent of the fake submissions are estate and letting agents – or their partners, friends, family or other representatives – giving five star reviews to themselves. Another 14 per cent are one-star reviews given to competiors.
“We are meticulously building evidence against repeat offenders and there will come a time, I’m sure, when we will have to ‘name and shame’ which agents are continually flouting our rules regarding fake reviews. I’d urge those indulging in it to stop it” says McCallion.
raterAgent claims to use a ‘triple-lock’ check for fraudulent reviews, involving an algorithm pitching each review against 13 ‘cheating metrics’ analysing IP addresses, common fake phrase analysis and the agent’s cheating history. It then gives each review a grade out of 100 as to how likely it is to be fake.
A moderator then goes through each review - the website claims this includes checking social media and electoral roll data to try to verify the reviewer’s existence and any relationship to the reviewee.
The third check is to write to the reviewer of any that are believed to be fake, asking them to prove that they have been involved with the agent. Failure in this results in the submission being marked as ‘fake’ and not allowed onto the site.
McCallion describes himself as a “veteran of property technology start-ups Primelocation and Zoopla.”