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Consumer Protection Initiative Uncovers Shady Group of Movers

Earlier this week we announced new Consumer Alerts, part of our Consumer Protection Initiative, to protect people from attempts to mislead them on Yelp. Although most businesses earn their reputations fairly, some are becoming sophisticated in their attempts to manipulate their online reputation. Fortunately, Yelp is just as committed to protecting the integrity of our content and we are constantly learning and improving our mechanisms to detect suspicious behavior.

Today we are protecting consumers (and businesses who play by the rules) by taking additional measures to shut down attempts at review manipulation. Yelp has issued a new Reputation Warning on more than 100 listings for moving companies across the U.S. who are connected to the Movers Alliance, a group that operates many mover and relocation businesses under several names and listings on Yelp, other consumer sites, and government databases. We have evidence that this group and the businesses connected to it pressure customers into writing positive reviews (sometimes on the spot) in exchange for a discount, manipulate customers into posting reviews to listings other than the one they transacted with (sometimes in an entirely different state), ask customers to sign a contract preventing them from publishing negative reviews in case of a dispute, and purchase fake reviews online. Here is a small selection from our evidence file:

Mover Alert Evidence

Click here to see a business with the alert and full evidence file.

Due to these extensive and widespread efforts to mislead consumers, some of whom may spend thousands of dollars moving, we cannot recommend any of the reviews for these businesses. Listings with this Reputation Warning will not have any reviews or star ratings and will display instead a warning with a link to Yelp’s evidence about this group.

Yelp employs advanced recommendation software and spends countless hours investigating deceptive behavior to protect the trust of the millions of people who use our services every month, but we couldn’t do it without the help of our community of users. If you see a review or message that doesn’t feel right, you can use this link to flag it for our team to evaluate. Messages shared by several Yelp users already helped us crack the Movers Alliance case.

Yelp’s Consumer Protection Initiative, which began with our Consumer Alerts program in 2012, will continue to evolve as we double down on our effort to have consumers’ backs. It has since extended to include providing public health scores of restaurants, government ranking data on medical service providers, taking a stand against misleading “reputation management” companies, and our ongoing efforts to protect consumers from lawsuits by businesses. Is there an issue you think Yelp should pursue? Please let us know here.