Warnings over fake online hotel reviews

TRAVELLERS are being warned to be on the lookout for fake hotel reviews online this season, after a crackdown in the United States on accommodation groups writing the fake reviews.

Consumer group Choice head of media Tom Godfrey warned of the rise of "astro-turfing' among hotel companies to promote their own accommodation.

The warning was sparked by US investigations into the manipulation of online travel review websites by hotel companies.

He said both New South Wales Fair Trading and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission were also investigating similar practices in Australia.

"Second to friends, people place their trust in reviews before editorial content, ads, marketing, and government sponsored tourism websites," he said.

"Yet US-based Trip Advisor, the world's biggest online travel review service, has no plans to improve its verification processes."Tips for spotting fake reviews:

Check reviews about the business from different sources

Keep an eye out for tell-tale signs of fakery such as a sudden increase in positive or negative reviews over a short time frame that is out of sync with earlier reviews

Beware of reviews that are allegedly from different people but are suspiciously similar in tone and style

A one-star rating by a reviewer for a five-star hotel should be regarded with suspicion

Source: Australian consumer group Choice.

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