A BMW dealership in San Antonio, Texas, was caught with fake online reviews after an investigation by a local television station revealed they came from a paid service.
The investigation by KSAT 12 was first prompted by a former customer of the dealership, who contacted the television station after he discovered several suspicious five-star reviews of BMW of San Antonio posted online.
The customer, Greg Kinney, told KSAT 12 he was surprised by the glowing reviews because his own experience at the dealership was less than stellar. Kinney said he knows that no dealership is perfect, but he suspected the authenticity of the reviews and did some research.
Kinney clicked on the profile of the person who’d given BMW of San Antonio a great review on City Search and found several other reviews posted by the same person on the same day referring to different businesses in different cities.
"(There are) 20 reviews by him. Here's one for Backpackers Vacation Inn and Plantation Village. Nob Hill Hotel was posted on the sixth, so I guess he was there too. The Bridal Superstar by Posie Patch got five stars on the same date," Kinney told KSAT 12.
Kinney suspected the profile was actually a paid service and contacted the KSAT Defenders, the television station’s investigative arm.
KSAT reporters contacted BMW of San Antonio’s General Manager John Bruns, who confirmed that the dealership hired a company called Review Boost to contact customers and generate actual reviews. He said the dealership also questioned the authenticity of the reviews after viewing them online.
BMW of San Antonio has since canceled the service from Review Boost and is working to remove questionable reviews taken from various Websites.
The dealership also said it conducts interviews with actual customers and that those reviews are authentic. The dealership attributed any suspicious reviews to other companies.