Monday, September 4, 2017

Beware the Shills!

Beware the Shills!

Do you know what a “shill” is? Perhaps this is a brand new word for you. The reality is that if you have spent anytime on the internet reading reviews, forums or the comments left on blog articles, you may well have been exposed to the comments of a shill. Confused? Read on.

The Internet has changed our lives in so many ways, many of which are extremely positive. However, the web is also a den of opportunity for scammers. One of the ways that you can fall foul to modern scams and false advertising is by believing the comments of “shills.”

What is a shill?

Shills, like internet trolls are people who comment on internet forums for a particular purpose. While trolls seek to provoke uproar and unrest within a forum, shills are usually paid to leave positive reviews of products, or indeed to slam their competitors in order to sell a solution. The problem with shills is that it is difficult to know if it is a genuine review or comment from a satisfied customer, or if their comments are fake. In most cases, shills are paid to spend time commenting in a positive way about certain products to spread a buzz by personally endorsing a service.

History of shills

The word shill comes from the word “shillaber,” which was originally a circus worker or circus trouper who would pretend to rush to buy tickets following the circus master’s speech advertising the show. Their reaction would create a sense of urgency for the “real” customers, who would then rush behind them to buy tickets. Shills are also common in open auctions to drive up the price of items.

How can you distinguish a shill from a genuine commenter?

Judging the sincerity of a shill is a fine art, especially if they are accomplished writers. One way you can tell a shill is to copy and past their comment in a Google search to see if the same comment has been left in various locations. Usually shills are too lazy to bother writing new comments for all websites. It is also a big warning sign if the same comment is repeated with a different company name; especially if they are complaining about a company in order to suggest a solution. You can also check out the commenter’s social networks. Have they used stock photographs? Do they have friends? All of this will point out if they are a shill.

TripAdvisor is hot on Shills

Luckily, websites such as TripAdvisor are very keen to weed out shills and trolls, and have heavy penalties for companies that use these techniques to drive up positive reviews. If you believe you have read a comment from a shill, you can report the post and help genuine companies receive the praise they deserve and fake scams to be penalized for their actions. 

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