Suspicious Customer Ratings on Website Alert REALTORS®
A website, www.agent-ratings.com appears to be giving real estate agents fake customer ratings, resulting in a poor online presence for the agent. It appears that agents that have paid a $99 fee are given A ratings, while those who haven’t have below average ratings associated with their name. The site appears to be a fraud, given the date the website was created and the fact that the ratings were given prior to that date. There are also obvious patterns with not much diversity in the ratings that does not make the site appear genuine.
GBAR alerted members of another bogus website – www.realtor-complaints.com recently, which has since been shut down. It also appeared to ask agents for money in order to have a negative review removed, but NAR attorneys were able to identify the site’s operators and exert pressure based on the misuse of the REALTOR® trademark. However there are different obstacles in taking action against agent-ratings.com, as the owners are hidden behind a privacy service that operates to prevent people from contacting them. They also have some operations in Panama, which if they are working out of then they are outside of U.S. jurisdiction, which makes NAR’s options for challenging it limited.
While consumers should be able to see through the site’s weak content, if you get any questions you can point out that these sites have popped up surrounding a variety of professions, and that a site that offers premium ratings for a fee isn’t a true rating site.
REALTORS® should find some comfort in knowing that given these fake websites, NAR has partnered with Quality Service Certification to launch their own agent rating system, which will enable brokers and agents to receive and track ratings from actual customers.
As always, GBAR encourages members to stay on top of their online presence, as it is an easy way to shape your reputation.