Chicago woman's pictures used to create 'fake reviews' online

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Can you really trust online reviews? A woman in Chicago's Boystown neighborhood says her pictures were used to create fake reviews on several sites.

The woman, who is the sister of an ABC7 producer, says she asked the online companies to remove her pictures and bogus reviews from their pages, but they didn't listen. So she called I-Team Consumer Reporter Samantha Chatman to investigate.

She learned her face was being used to leave five-star reviews for hair companies that she never even heard of.

Mariah Harris can't get enough of her new wig.

"I wear them because they're just easy and efficient," she said.

And she wanted others to know just how satisfied she was with her purchase. She snapped a few pictures and posted a five star review on the company's website, encouraging other women to message her on Instagram if they had questions.

She said several women did just that. They said they saw her pictures, but on a different hair website.

"They copied my review and copied my photos and put it on their site," Harris said. "I ended up finding my photos on more than just that website."

Harris says someone took her pictures and posted it on three so-called hair companies and created what she calls fake five star reviews

She said she sent emails asking the sites to take her photos down, but when she checked, they were still there.

"It makes me feel terrible, violated," Harris said.

"You should feel violated," said retail expert James Dion.

Dion said fake reviews are becoming increasingly problematic, as more unscrupulous online companies are popping up in an effort to rip consumers off.

"When they're given a false review or false picture, they're being conned," Dion said. "They're literally being lied to, and the kind of company that would do that, you really have to seriously question the product that they're selling and whether they will even stand behind it."

Dion says it's more important than ever to do their homework on online companies.

"It's not just one search you do," he said. "It's not just one review. You really have to dig a little bit deeper."

In Harris' case, she said she was just trying to leave a positive review for a good company, but in this case, she said the bad ones prevailed.

"You never want someone to steal your photos or make you out to be someone else," Harris said. "They're terrible."

After Chatman reached out, two of the companies so far have taken Harris' pictures down. The other company still has her photos. None of the businesses have responded to any of ABC7's emails or calls.

Harris said one company emailed her back and apologized, saying maybe someone put the wrong pictures up.

Consumers can do a reverse image search on Google to see if a particular photo is being used on other sites. More companies are also adding "verified reviews" that may be more trustworthy.

If you need something investigated, call the I-Team Consumer Alert Tip Line at 312-750-7847.
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