Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo said the case is believed to be the first in the nation to attack so-called astroturfing, the practice of creating the illusion of spontaneous support for a product or cause. His office said company officials ordered Lifestyle Lift employees to write the reviews and to go after real customers who complained by attacking their legitimate message board posts or trying to get them removed.
"This company's attempt to generate business by duping consumers was cynical, manipulative, and illegal," Cuomo said in a prepared statement.
Lifestyle Lift, which markets cosmetic surgery at more than 40 U.S. locations, agreed to pay $300,000 in penalties and the cost of the investigation as well as to stop publishing the phony reviews. The company posted a "Code of Internet Conduct & Assurance" on its site promising to deliver only truthful information and to use only actual customers as examples.
A standalone site full of fake reviews, MyFaceLiftStory.com, is now clearly labeled as being published by the company and contains information about the procedures in place of the phony commentary. You can see some of the phony sites and reviews here.