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Your take: Do you trust online reviews?

Do you consider online reviews when making a buying decision?

Most people do. A 2012 Nielsen survey found that 70 percent of global consumers surveyed online trust online reviews, second only to recommendations from friends and family.

Maybe that’s why there’s a cottage industry built around falsifying online reviews to sucker consumers into buying products and services that can’t get good reviews on their own, a practice known as “astroturfing.”

This week the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an agreement [3] with 19 companies to stop writing fake online reviews after an investigation uncovered evidence they had “violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices.” The companies will also pay $350,000 in fines to settle the charges.

Investigators posing as owners of a yogurt shop in Brooklyn contacted several large SEO companies in New York for help with combating negative online reviews. Representatives from those companies offered to fabricate positive reviews on Yelp.com, Google Plus, Citysearch.com and other sites.

While it’s great that someone in authority is policing reviews for fraud, it’s probably inevitable that companies who can’t produce genuinely good experiences for consumers will try to game the system. I have to admit that well-written reviews by users who don’t seem like total idiots often sway my buying choices, even though there’s always a chance the they’re written by someone paid to have that opinion.

What about you? Are you swayed by online reviews? Are there other sources you trust more or less? Let me know in the comments.

(Photo: David Sim)