We know you’d never do it, but apparently not all of your colleagues are so honest. A day spa and two med spas were among 19 companies cited by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman for posting fake consumer reviews online — a practice called “astroturfing.” The companies agreed to cease posting fake reviews and to pay more than $350,000 in penalties.

“Operation Clean Turf,” a year-long undercover investigation into the reputation management industry and the manipulation of consumer-review websites found that companies had flooded the Internet with fake reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. In the course of the investigation, the Attorney General’s office found that many of these companies used techniques to hide their identities, such as creating fake online profiles on consumer review websites and paying freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review.

By producing fake reviews, these companies violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices.

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