Thanks to help from a commenter named Anonymoose, The Daily Background is today able to partially corroborate reports from an anonymous Belkin employee who claimed that the review fraud first reported by The Daily Background last Friday “only scratches the surface.”
Until now, there was only evidence that a single Belkin employee was involved with paying users to post fake reviews on sites like Amazon.com, and posting fake reviews himself. But now a second, much higher level employee can be added to that list: Rudy Magna, Belkin’s National Account Manager. There is also evidence that Mr Manga and the earlier employee coordinated their fake reviewing. See this screenshot of two five star reviews of the same Belkin product posted by the two Belkin employees on the exact same day:
Belkin’s President Mark Reynoso apologized for the first employee’s behavior when the original occurrences of astroturfing and paying for positive reviews were exposed by TDB, insisting that “this is an isolated incident.” The company did not say whether anyone had been disciplined for the acts however, and scores of readers across hundreds of websites have called for more concrete action to be taken.
Mr Magna engaged in almost identical astroturfed reviews as the ones posted by the company’s Amazon sales rep, Mike Bayard, suggesting that review fraud is a widespread occurrence within the company, as first alleged by a whistleblower within the company who anonymously emailed the blog Gizmodo over the weekend. The evidence of Mr Magna’s involvement is outlined below, complete with links and screenshots.
For full screenshot, click here.
In a post Monday, I revealed, thanks to Anonymoose’s help, that Belkin employee Mike Bayard had been manufacturing his own fraudulent reviews on Amazon.com, in addition to paying others to write them for him. In that post, I suggested that the Amazon.com username B Ekim (which was confirmed to be Bayard’s) and username R. Wood were operated by the same person. They were not: R. Wood is actually Rudy Magna.
This revelation comes from close examination of Mr Magna’s Amazon Wishlist, where the online retailer publishes his full name (so that friends of Manga’s can be sure that it’s actually him). Mr Magna’s identity as National Account Manager, a major sales position, is confirmed on his profiles on the business bio site Spoke.com, as well as other sites like LinkedIn.
As National Account Manager, Mr Magna is “Responsible for managing Retail, Dot Com, and Telco resellers” according to his profiles. He posted several five star reviews of Belkin products, all of which have been mysteriously scrubbed from Amazon’s website. It is known that after TDB published its original item Amazon has been purging the site of reviews it believes to be false, but it is unknown whether this deletion was done by the mega-etailer, or by the Belkin employees covering their tracks. Several of the screenshots shown here are screenshots of cached pages that were saved before they were removed.
Astroturfing reviews is one of the many widespread intra-company practices alleged by the Belkin whistleblower, who says that shady practices inside the company starts at the top. Even if these reviews were Mr Magna’s legit opinions of his products, it’s highly unethical to post reviews for your own company pretending that you’re just an average user. Mr Magna’s astroturfing under the name rudomag or R. Wood goes as far back as at least 2006.
The Daily Background is awaiting comment from Belkin company representatives, and will publish that in full if and when it arrives.
Update: If you’re so inclined, give this story some Digg lovins.