Fraudulent reviews are a huge problem on the internet. Whether you’re trying to buy a quality product on Amazon, trying to decide which restaurant to eat at on Yelp, or trying to decide which hotel to stay at on TripAdvisor, you probably rely quite a bit on reviews. The problem is, many manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, hotels, etc. will plant positive reviews for themselves, or even pay writers to write glowing reviews for them, all the while bashing their competitors with fake reviews. Although most sites make an honest effort to quell the posting of fraudulent reviews, the practice is still commonplace.
Unfortunately, fraudulent reviews are also a problem in the App Store. Just last week, a popular tool for developers, Dash, which provided offline API documentation for over 150 APIs, was pulled from the App Store. The developer of Dash, Bogdan Popsecu, also had his developer account terminated after Apple accused him of manipulating App Store reviews.
In a statement to The Loop, Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayer claimed that Popsecu, who owned two accounts, had amassed nearly 1,000 fake reviews for the 25 apps across his accounts. In addition to fake positive reviews for his apps, Popsecu also allegedly posted a number of fake reviews for apps that offered competition to his.
“Almost 1,000 fraudulent reviews were detected across two accounts and 25 apps for this developer so we removed their apps and accounts from the App Store… Warning was given in advance of the termination and attempts were made to resolve the issue with the developer but they were unsuccessful. We will terminate developer accounts for ratings and review fraud, including actions designed to hurt other developers. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously, on behalf of all of our customers and developers.”
Apple claimed that they first sent a warning to Popsecu two years ago about the review manipulation, with repeated follow up attempts to rectify the situation, all of which failed. According to a recent blog post by Popsecu, however, the fault was not his own – the fraudulent reviews came from a linked developer account that belonged to a relative. According to Popsecu, “3-4 years ago [he] helped a relative get started by paying for her Apple’s Developer Program Membership using [his] credit card.”
That account was responsible for the fraudulent activity, and the owner of that account was the one who was contacted by Apple. The blog post contains a recorded phone call with an Apple representative, who asked that Popsecu publish a blog post acknowledging that Popesecu’s account was linked to an account with fraudulent activity, and that he is working with Apple to unlink the accounts and to work his way back into the developer program.
Popsecu claims that he submitted a blog post explaining the situation to Apple last Saturday, which is, apparently still under review. It’s not clear whether or not Apple will reinstate Popsecu’s developer account, along with Dash and his other apps.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s comforting to know that Apple remains vigilant in spotting and removing fraudulent reviews and review manipulating. The truth about Popsecu’s involvement in the situation will surely come to light soon – regardless of his guilt, however, users can rest assured that Apple is actively and consistently working to make the App Store a better experience for its users, and hopefully one of the few places where users can trust online reviews.