Taking a Stand Against Optimisation Fraud

“Optimisation” or "Organised Boosting" fraud occurs when businesses pay others to post fake reviews.

Optimisation companies contact business owners and falsely promise that they can manipulate TripAdvisor rankings – through the submission of positive reviews or the removal of negatives ones – in exchange for money. Some go so far as to falsely claim to have an official relationship with TripAdvisor.

These optimization practices are strictly against TripAdvisor policies, are unethical and are often illegal. Also, many businesses report that once they signed up for the optimisation company’s services, they’ve been subjected to blackmail, extortion and financial fraud when they try to cancel.

In a recent letter to hospitality businesses, TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer writes, “To be clear, no optimisation company is or will ever be affiliated with TripAdvisor, and the practice of submitting any content that is not genuine and from travellers goes against everything we stand for as a company”. 

How TripAdvisor fights optimisation fraud 

TripAdvisor has a zero-tolerance fraud policy. We believe optimisation companies pose a risk to millions of legitimate, honest hospitality businesses around the world. We will take the strongest action possible against these firms, as well as any property attempting to engage with these companies to distort content available on TripAdvisor.

Our investigations team uses advanced technology and techniques similar to those used in the financial industries to track optimisation companies across the globe. In 2015 alone, we’ve identified, investigated and shut down more than 30 optimization sites, and will continue to pursue these companies until they are no longer a risk to our community.

Here are four tactics we're using to stamp out optimization companies and others who commit fraud:

1. Analyse Incoming Reviews: TripAdvisor employs a large, international team dedicated to preventing fraud. Fraud detection systems, including sophisticated filtering and behaviour modelling tools, help the team identify widespread attempts to manipulate the system. All reviews are analysed and suspicious patterns that emerge are flagged for additional investigation.

2. Listen to the Community: Our business partners are a key resource when it comes to stamping out fraud. We want your help! If a company has offered to boost your ranking, provide content for your listing or perform any other activity that violates TripAdvisor policies, we want to hear from you. Any information you provide can assist in our investigations. All reports made will be investigated by our Content Integrity team and kept confidential. To report an optimisation company, log in to the Management Centre. Under the “Manage Your Reviews” menu, select “Report Organised Boosting”. Please provide as much detail in the form as possible to help the investigation team.

3. Identify Unscrupulous Businesses: The TripAdvisor fraud investigation team also regularly sets up dummy optimisation firms and accounts on known optimisation-hiring sites where users are paid to write reviews. The goal is to identify and penalise property owners who try to purchase these fraudulent services.

4. Take Action: When a business engages in fraudulent activity, TripAdvisor not only removes the fraudulent reviews but also imposes a variety of penalties, including dropping the offending business in the popularity ranking and adding a notification to the business’s profile (see right). TripAdvisor may also pursue legal action. 

What you can do to help

We are tireless in our efforts to fight fraud because we know that, like us, most hospitality businesses want a fair system that allows every business to compete fairly. If an optimisation company has contacted your business, please report them to our Content Integrity team in the Management Centre by selecting “Report a Review” under the “Reviews” menu at the top of the page. Then, under "Tell us what the issue is" select "Report Fraud". Choose "Report organised boosting" from the next section, and finally, fill out the remaining questions, giving as much detail as possible about the issue. 

Report Optimisation Fraud in the Management Centre

Report Optimisation Fraud in the Management Centre

Last Updated: 16 November 2015