Fraudster jailed for writing fake reviews in landmark case

A fraudster has been jailed in Italy for selling fake Tripadvisor reviews to hospitality companies in one of the first cases of its kind.

The owner of Promo Salento, a company which sold fraudulent listings to business owners’ to help them boost their profiles on the site, was sentenced to nine months by an Italian court.

The man was also ordered to pay around €8,000 (£7,100) in costs and damages after the Criminal Court of Lecce ruled that writing fraudulent reviews under a false identity was ‘criminal conduct’.

TripAdvisor began investigating back in 2015 after business owners forwarded on letters they had received from Promo Salento offering to write fake reviews for a fee. TripAdvisor staff then identified and blocked more than 1,000 attempts by Promo Salento to post reviews.

Brad Young, VP, Associate General Counsel at TripAdvisor, said: ‘We see this as a landmark ruling for the Internet. Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we’ve seen someone sent to jail as a result.’

Which? Travel raised concerns about fake reviews on Tripadvisor back in 2015 when it managed to submit three hoax listings to the site and write 54 fake reviews about them. Every one of our listings was published along with 18 of our 54 reviews.

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