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Late last year (October 2012), in an attempt to prevent businesses from posting deceptive online reviews and manipulating results, Yelp implemented a consumer alert system designed to warn individual users about fake or paid reviews. We thought it was a pretty smart move, because – well, if you’re going to spend your dough on something, you might as well research it beforehand and read reviews you can actually trust. Right?

This week, Yelp is continuing its consumer alerts program with a new round of posted alerts. These appear on the Yelp profiles of offending businesses caught gaming the system, complete with links to evidence as well as a (slightly rewritten) message that reads: “We caught someone offering up cash, discounts, gift certificates or other incentives in exchange for reviews about this business. We wanted you to know because buying reviews not only hurts consumers, but also honest businesses who play by the rules.”

(Check out: Oops! Businesses Caught Posting Fake Reviews Online)

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Why are these alerts necessary? For one, reviews are incredibly influential: according to the 2013 Local Consumer Review Survey, a staggering 85 percent of consumers read reviews to determine whether a local business is good or not.

Yelp’s move to squash fake reviews comes less than a month after automotive review site sued a company for manufacturing fake car dealership reviews. It’s also meant to support the site’s automatic review filters, which work to take out spammy reviews and allow only authentic user-generated content to appear on businesses’ Yelp pages.

Wrote Eric Singley, VP of Consumer and Mobile Products for Yelp: “We’ve seen some pretty extreme chicanery in connection with these businesses, including people buying fake reviews, offering rewards or discounts for reviews or having a large number of reviews submitted from the same Internet Protocol (IP) address (a clue that someone may be trying to artificially inflate their rating). A Consumer Alert message with hyperlinked evidence will be posted on these business’ Yelp listings for 90 days.”

Wary of the reviews you’re reading online? Here are 10 savvy ways you can spot fake reviews.

Chris Campbell

Chris is the CEO of ReviewTrackers. He has helped tens of thousands of businesses hear, manage, and respond to what their customers are saying online.