If you’re like me, then when you need some sort of service you haven’t used before you go online and look for reviews.
Many people turn to Yelp for help, which is perhaps the biggest review site in the world: it’s in 31 countries; it’s got nearly 150 million monthly unique users; and it’s got nearly 130 million reviews.
But a 2015 Harvard Business School study found that 16% of reviews on Yelp are fake. That’s about 1 in 6 reviews. However, this 16% just covers the reviews that are caught by Yelp’s algorithms and filtered out, so you don’t see them.
There are a lot more reviews that aren’t caught. Despite Yelp’s attempts to stop fakes, the fact remains that people who want to submit fake reviews are often successful.
Today we’re going to look at some of Yelp’s top results for major cities in the United States when you search for an international mover. The companies below are all actively circumventing Yelp’s review rules and submitting glowing reviews of themselves.
My International Mover
My International Mover has 15 five-star reviews. That would be stellar for any business, but exceedingly unlikely for a moving company. I can pretty much guarantee that there is no such thing as a 5-star international moving company. Moving abroad is complex and things will eventually go wrong for someone.
Let’s look at some of the reviewers: Winston T. has 8 reviews. Six of them are in the Chicago area. The two that aren’t are for two different international moving companies: I Love International Moving (we’ve already written about these guys twice, here and here) and My International Mover.
Winston apparently moved abroad in April 2016 and then moved abroad again in June 2016. Nobody does that unless they’re some highly paid travel blogger, and if that’s the case they don’t move their stuff.
Here’s another fake one. K M.‘s fake review shows why it’s so hard for Yelp’s filters to catch things. She’s only added one review for an international mover, so it’s not as obvious as Winston.
What’s wrong with her review then? In December 2015 she added a review saying what a great job My International Movers did relocating all her precious things to London, where she was apparently moving for a job. Yet every review submitted after that, starting in April 2016, was for Chicago region businesses. She never actually moved. Fake review.
Let’s do one more for My International Mover. Mihir P. is just lazy. He submitted two reviews within the same week and used literally the same language:
My International Mover also displays a bunch of logos at the bottom of their website, including the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) logo. I’m guessing this is to convince you they’re a reputable company by flashing a government agency logo, but here’s the thing: they’re not an FMC member.
Okay, on to the next mover.
Sunset International Shipping
Yelp, to their credit, is filtering a number of reviews for this business. But at some point they need to take stronger action because it obviously hasn’t stopped the fake reviews.
Let’s look at a review that may be surprising. The below review is from Sara D., who has written 102 reviews and was awarded Yelp Elite status in 2015 and 2016.
So what’s suspicious about this review? Except for this review, all of her reviews are for businesses in the Chicago area. So she just happened to be moving from Hoboken while she was apparently living her life in Chicago. Yeah, right.
If you’re surprised that a Yelp Elite is committing fraud, well, apparently it’s a thing. Plus, I suppose when you’re submitting dozens of fake reviews for your job, eventually you’re going to earn that ‘Elite’ status.
Sunset International Shipping, like the other movers in this post, play a game on Yelp with different locations and names. For example, searching for an international mover in San Francisco on Yelp results in seeing a 5-star result called “International Shipping Company“.
But when you click on the link to see the profile, you’ll see that this is actually Sunset International Shipping. They’re using a second, generic name since someone on Google is more like to search for an international shipping company than a brand name, see this result, and click on it.
The below fake review for Sunset is just funny — it’s like the reviewer knows no one is actually going to read this. I mean, the review says “Her best friend and husband had moved to the U.K. 8 years before and convinced her it was the ideal place for her to spend her golden years.” They lived apart for 8 years even though they were best friends and spouses? Nope, don’t buy it.
Here’s an easy fake to spot. The reviewer, who goes by the trustworthy sounding name Anonymous P., reviewed several movers over a couple years. First, he moved to Italy, then he apparently teleported to Houston and moved to Los Angeles, and then from there he moved again. That destination wasn’t disclosed but I’m sure you won’t be surprised that all the reviews since that international move were in Los Angeles.
(Side note: I Love International Moving, I Love Moving, Sunset International Shipping, International Shipping Company, and others you’ll find on Yelp are actually all the same company. They just play a sophisticated Yelp game…and play it well, obviously.)
And here’s yet another user who moves a ton. This person apparently moved five times within two years…. Must be exhausting.
Alright, let’s do one more mover.
Inter Movers LLC
Again, always be skeptical of a mover with a perfect score on Yelp. This company has fourteen 5-star reviews. And again, be skeptical of a mover that has a lot of filtered reviews since these are reviews that Yelp has flagged as suspect. Inter Movers has 16 hidden reviews.
Gary F. has just one mover review between October 2015 and December 2016, for Inter Movers. Two things make his review suspicious. One, undergrads almost never have any decent furniture and unless they have rich parents, certainly don’t have the money to move things abroad. Second, all of Gary’s reviews after this are also for New York City businesses.
Gary S. makes it easier for us by posting several mover reviews within a two year period. In June 2014 he apparently moved to Canada, then to Germany in January 2015, then to New Jersey in August 2016. That’s a lot of moving in two years.
(We’ve talked about ‘cross-contamination’ in previous posts, and Yelp user Marina F. gave 5 star reviews to Inter Movers and Vella Wine Bar + Kitchen as well). Other reviews have the same fatal flaw: the person allegedly moved to a new country, yet continued posting reviews of the ‘origin’ city.
Stick with trusted organizations
So what lesson should you take from this? Do NOT use Yelp to find an international mover. There’s really no way of telling whether any of these companies are good or not, but it’s obvious they’re all willing to pay to have fraudulent reviews created and that doesn’t exactly suggest a reputable business. This warning applies to other review sites as well, such as MyMovingReviews and TrustPilot; the reality is that any review site can be gamed.
At GoodMigrations we’ve built up a network of reputable moving companies around the world, so you don’t have to worry about finding a good one. But if you don’t use us, make sure you find your mover through one of the many moving organizations around the world. While organizations like FIDI and BAR do an actual audit of an international mover’s business practices, the other groups at least provide some indication that the movers are legitimate.
Here are several different moving organizations: