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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Agency review website to name and shame fake reviewers

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.” 

  • David Simpson

    We embraced the whole "Review culture" at the end of 2012 and with over 250 reviews can now claim to be "Hertford's most positively reviewed estate agency" which is a powerful message and as we continue to accumulate reviews; an unassailable position - we hope! - www.shepherdsofhertford.co.uk


  • Rob  Davies

    Nice work, David Simpson. This is the positive side of the review system, showing how it can work to an agent's advantage and really enhance their reputation. Being able to say we are "Hertford's most positively reviewed estate agency' is a fantastic weapon in the locker.

    Sadly, the review system is also ripe for abuse. As we can see in the above article, 17% of reviews are fake. This is a potentially major problem and something that needs to be clamped down on as much as possible. It's something TripAdvisor, Booking.com and other review websites have to deal with on a regular basis, separating the genuine from the fake, and it's something all these new agent-rater websites will have to learn too.

  • Jon  Tarrey

    The way it's policed is something that needs to be looked at, but in theory it's a fantastic idea. It just needs to be monitored in a fair and scrupulous manner, which (admittedly) won't be all that easy.

  • Simon Shinerock

    We aimed our training towards obtaining genuine positive reviews over three years ago, there is no doubt of their value when done property, in the end if you cheat the only one you really fool is yourself

  • icon

    If raterAgent has a 'triple-lock' check for fake reviews and still has 17% fakes, what chance have we got? People will always try to cheat the system for their own benefit.

  • Jordan Mann

    @John Bamonte those 17% of reviews do not make it on to our site, any reviews that we find are fakes will not be published.

  • Jon  Tarrey

    @Jordan Mann - out of interest, how can you tell genuine reviews from fakes? Some might look fake but are actually genuine, or vice versa. What's the protocol?

  • Jordan Mann

    @Jon Tarrey - Hi there. First reviews get put through our algorithm which currently checks 13 different points - from things like IP address to common used words in fake reviews. This then throws out a score of how fake this is likely to be, it then goes over to our team of moderators who manually check every single review - on things like social media and electoral roll data. If they deem it to be fake we will contact the reviewer telling them the review we received is fake and giving them a last chance to prove it's genuine, if they don't provide reasonable evidence that the review is genuine then it will not be published.
    Obviously we cannot guarantee 100% of all fake reviews will be found, but we are certainly trying extremely hard to get as many as possible.
    Feel free to email me (jordan@rateragent.co.uk) if you have any more questions.

  • Jon  Tarrey

    Thanks for responding! That sounds like a very thorough and well-thought out system, putting as many barriers in front of fake reviews as possible while also making sure genuine reviews aren't flagged as fake.

    As you say, it's nigh on impossible to guarantee that every fake review will remain unpublished, but it seems like the steps being taken to prevent this happening are very comprehensive. For the people who are sceptical about how this will be policed, I think your answer is pretty hard to argue with.

    Thanks again.

  • Jordan Mann

    @Jon Tarrey That's okay! Thank you very much. The process of checking reviews is lengthy but we believe its something this industry is in need of.

    Exactly, and we are always looking to improve our system and come up with new checks regularly just to make that barrier even stronger. Thanks again Jon for asking the question.

    Jordan - raterAgent

  • Tom  Harrington

    Great to hear exactly how fake reviewers get determined. Hopefully this 'naming and shaming' will really highlight the companies which do receive genuine, brilliant reviews.

  • Felicity Blair

    '14% per cent are one star reviews given to competitors'

    Very underhand practices here by some estate agents. If you as an estate or letting agent can't prove your merit against the competition fair and square then surely that says something about that individual agent.

  • Karl Knipe

    Well said, Felicity. Some agents will go to tawdry lengths to try and outdo the competition. Luckily, it seems like these fake reviews are intercepted before they become published, but there will always be one or two that slip through the net. Reputation is everything in estate agency - and, unfortunately, one bad review holds more weight than five or six good ones. If that bad review is a fake or a plant, then it becomes all the more galling.

  • Mal McCallion

    Hi all, thanks for the comments. As Jon Tarrey says above, used correctly these reviews can help quality agents enormously - and that's why we're here.

    We created raterAgent because we felt that more needed to be done to help good agents get a transparent and honest series of reviews of their services, without worrying about '1-star bombs' from jealous competitors, or those self-same competitors being able to 5-star themselves up. We believe that core elements of the service - replying to reviews, adding logos, amending details - should not be charged for and, on raterAgent, they will always be free.

    In essence, we reckon that if every seller or landlord can access trustworthy information regarding each agent's services, engage with all of them if they like, they'll make better decisions on which ones to use - which will help those providing a great service to rightly become more successful. That depends, as Jordan says, on our vigilance at raterAgent in catching these cheats - and that's something that we are hugely passionate about and take great pride in.

    Thanks again - any direct questions or comments do get in touch at mal@rateragent.co.uk. Cheers all, Mal

  • Robert  McKechnie

    Good to see the innovation on show here. I'm sure an agent rating website that is scrupulously thorough with fake reviews will do very well. There is definitely a demand for review type websites - we only need to look at TripAdvisor to see that - so it wasn't going to be long before this gap in the market was filled.

  • Simon Shinerock

    I'm thinking of launching a site specialising in fake reviews, called fakeragent (that's faker by the way not a typo)

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