Identify the person responsible for a fake review
First I want to point out that if you want to identify the person responsible for a fake review through our services, DO NOT respond to the review just yet, as our methods require no response from business owner, until we are ready to strike. Keep reading to learn what you can do if someone leaves a fake review.
THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE: The blog is just a reflection on our team’s experiences. Do not act, or refrain from acting on this content withour consulting a suitably qualified lawyer.
How to Spot Fake Google Reviews
In most cases it’s very easy to spot fake Google reviews, as they often display some of the following characteristics:
Odd profile name and general avatar
Trolls usually make one-time Google accounts to publish fake reviews using a bogus name and use no profile photo.
The user left only one review
When trolls use one-time accounts, they often only publish a single fake review. You can click the profile to see if the user left any other reviews, or just for your business. Sometimes sloppy fake reviewers will leave a glowing positive review for one of your competitors, this is a good hint as to the motive.
The user only leaves negative reviews
If the user leaves a string of negative reviews, you are likley dealing with a troll who is abusing the platform.
The username is not in your database
If they haven’t used your service, the review is most likely not legitimate. However, sometimes legitimate unhappy customers who want to leave bad reviews, use a different name to stay anonymous.
If the user mentions a service or business name that does not apply to you, it could be that the user is mistaking you for another company or brand.
One star, no text
Often trolls leave one-star reviews, without any context or description of their experience.
What to do if someone leaves a fake review?
If you found this blog, you most likely already know the review is fake, but Google refused to remove the review, unless you can prove there is a conflict of interest by identifying the person responsible for a fake review.
Identify the person responsible for a fake review
If you suspect that there is a conflict of interest because the reviewer is a competitor or a current or former employee, you need to identify the person responsible for a fake review.
This can be tricky if the user posted the review through a fake user account and used a fake email account. The user account may have been abandoned. However, if the fake review was posted recently, there is a good chance you can uncover the identity of the reviewer.
Our licensed cyber investigators specialize in identifying anonymous users on the internet and have extensive experience in identifying individuals responsible for Google reviews.
Contact us if you would like to know more about our services.
If Google won’t remove the fake review
If Google refuses to remove the review, you may be thinking of taking legal action. However, lawsuits are not always the most appropriate solution to a problem, including fake reviews. A popular alternative to a defamation suit that may help with negative and defamatory reviews are defamation cease and desist letters.
To do this, you must know the identity of the reviewer so you can send a defamation cease and desist letter, to ask them to remove the negative review and cease any further conduct concerning your business. Carefully word your communication with the reviewer to avoid negative repercussions.
However, in our experience a Cease & Desist letter often forces the antagonist to continue, and cause them to be more carefull to disguise their identity. Our investigators are more effective if the trolls do not know we are coming after them.
Can you sue someone for a false Google review?
As stated earlier, filing a lawsuit over a bad review(s) should be your final course of action only after all other avenues of relief are exhausted. But you can sue someone for a bad review, if the review is:
- Defamatory or legally actionable;
- In violation of an online review platform’s Terms of Service (ToS); or
- Extorting or harassing your business.
There is a difference between a bad and defamatory review. A bad review crosses the line into defamation when the reviewer is not a real customer and lies about their experience. For example, a competitor who leaves a fake review in an attempt to hurt your business reputation could be considered a defamatory statement.
Statute of limitations
With any legal matter, it is important to act swiftly because if you exceed the statute of limitations there is a good chance the court will dismiss your case. Most defamation Statute of Limitations in the United States range from one to three years. Therefore, a defamation victim has to file a lawsuit within one to three year, or risk having their case dismissed.
Here you can see the Statute of Limitations state-by-state.
It is crucial that you sue the individual who posted the fake, defamatory review. You may think that suing the review site will provide better results – but this is not the case. You can’t sue Google for fake online reviews posted on your Google My Business profile by a third party because Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects online platforms from liability for content posted on their platform by third parties.
So if you know the identity of the reviewer, you should sue that individual in their jurisdiction.
If you can’t identify the person responsible for a fake review
If you are unable to identify the person responsible for a fake review, you can file a John Doe defamation lawsuit.
When suing an anonymous, unidentified party, it is referred to as a “John Doe” Lawsuit or an unknown defendant lawsuit. These types of lawsuits are common when a plaintiff is legally “wronged” by an anonymous website, blog site, or social media account.
Submitting a John Doe defamation lawsuit may also assist you in the process of discovering the identity of the unknown accused.
When you have notified the unknown defendant that you are seeking their identity, you can obtain a subpoena to identify their identity. It is best to submit your suit swiftly because the statute of limitations might run out, causing essential evidence to be erased or removed from internet servers.