19 companies among which we can list big names such as Yelp and Google+ were ordered to pay fines up to $350000 and to stop these practices. New York officials created a fake yogurt business in Brooklyn and then paid SEO companies money to boost their fake company's online presence.
In the process no one really cared if there the yogurt shop was indeed a real business. Furthermore investigators found online ads offering $1 for a Yelp, Citysearch, Google review and others for their fake business. The hired SEO companies outsourced some of the promotion work to people as far away as Eastern Europe or Bangladesh. The real extent of fake reviews on the online world is not that well known. However, a study made back in 2012 by research firm Gartner revealed that online 2-6% of online reviews are fake and estimated that by 2014 this number will grow to 10%.
These numbers are far away from today's reality for certain niches. Analysts say that it's no wonder restaurants or other businesses often result to fake reviews. Having their online rating increased on review sites with just half of star can dramatically increase their booking percent.