Is this story a fake? 5 ways you can tell

Nenetus/Shutterstock
Nenetus/Shutterstock
Not a day seems to go by that I don’t receive an email that commends me for my “well-written” site and asks, “Do you accept sponsored content and if so, how much you charge?”

These blind queries — they’re so generic that they can’t even bring themselves to address me by name or say which site I write for — are being sent by companies trying to place what’s called “native” advertising online.

Here’s what you need to know about native content: They’re ads masquerading as objective stories. And the practice has become so worrisome that the Federal Trade Commission, which regulates this form of advertising, recently held a workshop to discuss the problem.

But what, exactly, is the problem?
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How do I spot a fake review?

How do I spot a fake review?

Online reviews are great sources for information about a hotel or restaurant — except when they’re not. Here’s how to spot a fake.


Surrounded by impostors, what’s a consumer to do?

Odua/Shutterstock
Odua/Shutterstock
You’re surrounded by fakes. The clothes you wear could be fake. The money you use? Not real, maybe. Even your “friends” on social media are sometimes fake.

What’s a consumer to do?

We’ve had a lively conversation about authenticity during the last two weeks, dissecting the problem of counterfeit electronics and phone cards. But as it turns out, the problem runs much deeper.

Fakes are everywhere.
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Don’t be fooled by fake electronics: 5 tips

Jeka84/Shutterstock
Jeka84/Shutterstock
Ever had a “duh!” moment that you regretted for years to come?

Here’s one: you’re a college freshman living with your grandmother for the summer. You’re running a few errands in town with a friend and you pull into the parking lot of a grocery store. Some guy approaches and offers to sell you a “new” TV, “still in the box”, for just $40.

Ah, your own TV! Wouldn’t that be great? No more sharing the TV with grandma. Can you have a look at it, you ask?

“No, no,” the guy whispers. “Not here.”
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Is TripAdvisor still letting hotels rig their reviews?

Achim Baque/Shutterstock
Achim Baque/Shutterstock
TripAdvisor is a regrettable by-product of the information revolution whose user-generated ratings too often hurt travelers and travel companies more than they help.

As I’ve noted in the past, the company cynically monetizes the labor of its unpaid contributors while making virtually no effort to verify its reviews.

TripAdvisor doesn’t promise its readers much, but the least it can do is to live up to the few guarantees it makes.

Even so, when I heard from Ellen Garland, who charged the company with allowing a hotel in Anguilla to brazenly game its ratings, I didn’t want to go there.
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What to do when you fall for a fake star

Fiona Lau contacted me in a panic a few days ago. She’d booked a “three-star” hotel through Hotwire, which doesn’t reveal the name of the property until you’ve paid for a non-refundable reservation by credit card. She ended up at a Clarion Hotel property in Pennsylvania she didn’t expect — or want.

“I looked at the picture from the official Clarion website, and the hotel doesn’t just look old, the family suite picture that they displayed is showing an extremely old room with patches on the wall,” she says.
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