"Nefarious" websites devoted to promoting merchandise with fake or anonymous reviews still manage to earn the trust of buyers, she says. "You think they'd be hoodwinked enough to be on the lookout."
Frietchen points out the cosmetics site wrinklecream-reviews.net as an example. The "About Us" homepage tab reveals nothing about the company's identity, she notes. The "Contact Us" link leads to a generic email template. There's no contact person's name, no phone number, and no brick-and-mortar address to be found anywhere. All of these should clue consumers in that something is amiss.
The site claims to have collected thousands of reviews to arrive at its ratings, yet displays no actual reviews from individuals, she says. It has "Editors' Choice" cosmetics, but no information on who the editors are. The "Reviews" tab clicks to an advertorial.
She warns online shoppers to pay close attention to sites that rate things like makeup and teeth-whiteners. "The skincare and beauty products are the worst if it," she says. "Any kind of thing where you have goo in a jar, who can tell if it works?"
DailyFinance requested an interview through wrinklecream-reviews.net's email and did not receive a response.
"There's no transparency there," Frietchen says. "This is a facade, a movie set."
A neat and simple trick that Frietchen employs to call out suspicious sites is to run their domain name through whois.net. You plug in the suspicious URL to find out who the actual registrant is. Some companies pay extra to mask their true identity, resulting in a "Domains by Proxy." That's the case for our anti-aging cream site.
What really annoys Frietchen is that many of these suspect review sites are showing up highly placed in Google searches -- above some established review platforms. With con artists outsmarting the search engine's algorithmic relevance filter, it's up to the buyer to be on the lookout.
Says Frietchen: "Be skeptical."