Watch Out For Online Scams

I have recently discussed the difference between such websites that rate and review attorneys, and in particular the Lead Counsel difference, but it came to my attention that it may not be well known that other consumer product websites operate in the same fashion as many for-profit ranking sites.

Here are some pieces of information worth noting if you are attempting to use online tools to evaluate online vendors:

  • Do Not Rely on For Profit Consumer Business sites---Consumers should not rely solely on consumer review sites because for many of these sites this designation is based upon paying a fee. Certainly, the maintenance of a favorable rating is based upon external consumer input, but becoming a part of the organization is subject to a financial agreement between the business and the company. This means that unscrupulous or fraudulent business may be able to capitalize on their favorable ratings without conducting good business practices. Look for sites like Lead Counsel, which are based upon free and objective assessments--either the attorneys meet the qualifications or they do not.
  • Remember Yelp's Business Model-- Sites Like Yelp rely on investors and advertisers to thrive. It wasn't until recently it came to my attention the number of positive reviews viewable to the general public may be based upon the amount of marketing a company buys. In other words, a business may have 10s or 100s of good legitimate user reviews, but if the companies does not invest in advertising, then only a fraction of reviews may be viewable. It is my understanding these review companies regularly sift through user reviews to filter out those they may believe to be false, which is an added safeguard for consumers.
  • The Internet is Public-- Online reviews are accessible to anyone. This means that illegitimate businesses, or those who may have otherwise negative feedback, are able to take advantage of the same channels that legitimate consumers do, and post false positive reviews. This is why it is important to do your homework. Try to find as many consumer reviews as possible before trusting an unkn0wn lender.

As a general matter, if you are attempting to conduct business over the internet, follow your intuition. If something seems to good to be true, or something seems awry with the process, trust your instincts. Also, if you do happen to get mixed up in a disfavorable transaction, remember that many credit card companies will allow you to challenge charges to reverse the transaction. This way, you won't get stuck paying for something that you never ultimately receive.

Also, be on the look out for external neutral sources of review. On sites like Amazon or Etsy, for example, you can view star ratings and textual reviews for dealers, and evaluate for yourself whether the seller seems trustworthy. If worse comes to worse, you can always consult a Consumer Lawyer, to evaluate your options.