By Melissa Batai
NOTE: Since writing this post, Amazon has gone after people selling fake reviews in court, as stated in this Mashable article.
In the last 15 years, the Internet has afforded many women the chance to make a comfortable living from home while also caring for their children. There are many ways to make money online, both ethically and unethically.
One of the newest ways to make money online, which can be quite lucrative, is to write fake reviews about a product for Amazon.
Here is a message posted in an online forum that shows exactly what I'm talking about:
"90% of the work (my work-at-home moms and dads) do are product reviews for ecommerce sites. They go to the product page to see all the features and then write about it as if they bought it. I typically charge my customers $35 per 500 words if its a review Depending on the "style" of the writing the prices... could be a little more."A Good Deal for Writers of Fraudulent Reviews
Todd Rutherford started a company in 2010--GettingBookReviews.com. He offered to review a book and post his opinion to Amazon for $99. However, some authors wanted more reviews, so he would write 50 reviews for $999. It wasn't long before he was making $28,000 a month (The New York Times).
Surprisingly, Amazon does very little about these fraudulent reviews, even though they have the ability to detect them through IP addresses.
Undoubtedly there is money to be made in this business. Rutherford hired people to write 50 word reviews for $15. That doesn't sound like a good deal until you realize that the reviewers never read the books they were reviewing.
A Bad Deal for Authentic Writers
Herein lies the problem. A working mother puts her product, perhaps her eBook, up on Amazon, and now she has to compete against others who have the money to pay for fake reviews to ardently endorse their books. She can't compete, unless she wants to pay for fake reviews, too.
Amazon's review system was designed so that real life customers could give their opinions on a product. A quality product should be obvious thanks to the 4 and 5 star ratings. However, the power of reviews is altered when the reviews are fake.
Bing Liu, a researcher at the University of Illinois, Chicago, estimates that as many as "one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake" (The New York Times). Even the bad reviews can be fraudulent when someone tries to sabotage someone else.
As a work at home mom, you know what you are willing to do to put food on the table. For some people, writing unethical reviews might be what they need. However, there are plenty of other women who are trying to be honest business people who are suffering as a result.
What do you think? Is writing a fake review to make ends meet acceptable?
Melissa is a freelance writer who is a homeschooling mom to three kids, ages 9, 4 and 3. She blogs at momsplans.com, where she writes about personal finance, family, homeschooling, and living with food intolerances.