Canadian Contractor

How HomeStars and TrustedPros are trying to sniff out false reviews

Both firms have introduced new systems to reduce the number of fake reviews on their sites

November 2, 2015
By John Bleasby
John Bleasby

HomeStars and TrustedPros, two of the leading contractor review websites in Canada, post hundreds of customer reviews each week and boast massive information databases. It’s a growing on-line landscape riddled with challenges, particularly when it comes to review verification.

“It’s on the internet, so it must be true”
It’s important to understand how the HomeStars’ and TrustedPros’ review verification systems works, and how these sites can in fact help your business from being victimized by false reviews.  After all, false reviews undermine credibility, which is bad for everyone: consumers, businesses and the review sites themselves.  

There are two types of false reviews: fake positive reviews and fake negative reviews.

Fake positive reviews are posted by disreputable operators in an attempt to float a company’s name to the top of a page, where they can then misdirect potential customers who don’t scroll down.


Equally damaging are bad reviews, particularly if they’re unfair or result from a misunderstanding that could have or should have been mediated. Sometimes fictitious bad reviews show up on sites, planted by unscrupulous competitors. Or maybe it’s blackmail; one recent  ‘false bad review’ for bathroom renovations, was an intentional attempt to squeeze a $1,000 discount from the contractor.

Make yourself part of the solution
In order to confirm the veracity of reviews, HomeStars and TrustedPros have each initiated disciplined procedures to investigate any that are suspicious. In conversation with Canadian Contractor, the CEOs of both companies spoke of dedicated teams of real people who read every incoming review, often confirming with both the consumer and contractor that actual work was done.

All reviews, good or bad, are sent to the contractor prior to posting. Equally important to the confirmation of good reviews is the resolution of unfavourable ones. Both HomeStars and TrustedPros suggest contractors should never ignore an unfavourable review. “Even after a review goes up, the company can and should engage the review on-line to indicate their willingness to resolve any shortcomings,” says HomeStars CEO Nancy Peterson. “It indicates a willingness to respond, which will be viewed positively by other readers.”

As an example, HomeStars has a review listing for itself, and their on-line interaction regarding less-than-stellar reviews of their services illustrates how engagement should be done.

TrustedPros’ CEO Max Sheppard says, “If the contractor is able to provide documentation that clearly proves the comments are factually false, we have no problem either altering or removing that review.” Of course, if you don’t respond, the post goes up as is.

New features based on proven data
Over time, HomeStars and TrustedPros have built a file of knowledge regarding the most-reviewed companies that includes a company’s engagement with the site as described above. Both have turned this data into newly-announced customer features.

Trusted Pros new rating summary 'TrustScore' offer a clear summary of past reviews, including those that were unverified or suspicious

Trusted Pros new rating summary ‘TrustScore’ offer a clear summary of past reviews, including those that were unverified or suspicious

Trusted Pro describes their new “TrustScore” system as “a stringent five-point rating system that grades contractors’ performance along 14 verticals before assigning them an aggregate score. The rating criteria include authenticity of reviews; supplier, creditor, and employee complaints; transparency of business practices; endorsement by peers; time in business, etc.”

Home Stars now incorporates a 'Trust Meter' (bottom left) to their rating summary graphics

Home Stars now incorporates a ‘Recommendation Meter’ (bottom left) to their rating summary graphics

For its part, HomeStars calls their similar system ‘Scorecard’, and combines it with a HomeStars Recommendation Meter.

The never-ending search for truth
As TrustedPros’ Sheppard himself admits “no website may ever be able to sniff out every fictitious review. People looking for shortcuts and loopholes will always find ways to bypass the best detectors and plant deceptive reviews.”  Therefore, both companies encourage the industry to engage with them whenever a false positive or false negative review catches their attention. Working together ultimately results in a more satisfactory experience for the consumer.

Want to learn more?
Check out these links

Bell Canada pays $1.2 million fine for false reviews
Amazon sues to block alleged fake reviews on its website
HomeStars CEO Nancy Peterson interviewed in Globe & Mail
TrustedPros study finds 47% of contractors may use fake reviews
Bad review blackmail


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21 Comments » for How HomeStars and TrustedPros are trying to sniff out false reviews
  1. Ted says:

    This article is BS. I’ve challenged Homestars over two reviews about my company on their website. In both instances, Homestars’ position was that as long as the client/homeowner had a paid bill or invoice, they could say whatever they like. This was regardless of the work done and the veracity of their statements. This article is shameless; it was written as an advertising piece.

    Note: When I tried to post an earlier comment about this article, the website prompted to say that I was too quick to post a comment. WTF?!?!

    • Steve Payne Steve Payne says:

      We were not paid one cent. We approached both firms, not the other way around. We have written extensively in many pieces about how unfair it is – and how common – when homeowners shaft contractors with bad reviews they do not deserve. And that point is made right in the article, too. But in this case, we mostly wanted to know what steps these firms are taking to remove deliberately planted malicious reviews or self planted positive ones. Thanks for your comment.

    • Further to Steve’s comments; I would suggest that you take HomeStars up on their apparent offer to review them and post your claims on the review section of their own site….the link is there showing other reviews people have posted. Keep copies of your correspondence and keep us us informed if you do this.

  2. Edward says:

    I have voiced my issues with Homestars in earlier posts. A little late to the party though. Now they acknowledge they have a problem? What about existing companies with over 1000+ reviews who used office staff to get there? How does any other company or new company even start or get anywhere on that site? Also article say’s two types of false reviews….there is actually 3.

    False positive reviews created by competition to make appearance a company is ultra expensive as everyone can see what company charges for a service OR attempt to push a negative banner on companies listing for false reviews.. I know a former collegue who is also a plumber on that site. Was given a bunch of positive reviews on a weekend for small service calls. Prices given were rediculous. He even went out of the way to call homestars and remove those reviews as he did not recognize those customers and the ripoff pricing supplied. Homestars passed those customers as legitimate btw……..

  3. Bob2 says:

    Homestar et al are just putting on a show here, they have no intentions of rattling the wasps nest, no website is going to bite the hand that feeds them. I put a negative review on yellowpages and it was never posted, I got an email saying it didn’t meet their guidelines, of course there was nothing in the review that was a problem other then it was a one star review, the business I wrote about is paying YP for advertising, they are not going to ruin that business relationship by allowing negative reviews to over power the positive star rating they want to display, so they keep deleting negative reviews to keep that sunny view they want to showcase.

    Most of the fake reviews on homestars are positive, mostly posted by large companies who are dominating their sectors. There are number of people who have come out and outed these employers over the years, this has been known for years but homestars wanted to hear nothing about it.

  4. Trusted pros abuses the word TRUST – what they say is NOT what they do!

  5. Roger says:

    I laugh, Homestars is a scam… riding on a company’s name, letting the company write their own reviews… The whole thing is a well thought out scam… Company’s pay to get good reviews. Company’s can write own reviews. If you are not a paying member and someone seacrhes your company name on the site, it will show your company and your reviews but recommend a paying member. If that customer request a quote through the website, homestars will send the request to you but also to the paying member so they can also quote on your job. Shameful website

    • Steve Payne Steve Payne says:

      It’s more than a bit harsh to allege that HomeStars is a “well thought out scam.” They themselves admit that catching up with fake reviews is a challenge… but this applies to every review site in every industry. The question I would pose is, are consumers better off with or without online review sites in general? I think it’s clear that consumers are better off than they were 30 years ago, thanks these sites. Yes, with the caveat that some reviews will be fraudulent.

    • Roger…You will very interested to read my on-line post on Monday regarding some of the latest (and greatest) scams and TrustedPros policy towards the scamsters….Stay tuned!

  6. Read for urself on how Max Sheppard and Trusted Pros are frauds. They are being sued by many in the Windsor court system as we speak and looking for others to join.

    • Steve Payne Steve Payne says:

      Well, a quick scroll through the “Rip Off Report” will show any fair-minded reader that it’s a dog’s breakfast of unsubstantiated claims, foul language, personal attacks, unsubstantiated claims, grade 3 grammar, wild rants, libellous statements, unsubstantiated claims, etc.

      Did I mention unsubstantiated claims?

      As far as the Windsor “lawsuit(s)” alleging “fraud” by TrustedPros, if you have any actual information to share that IS actually credible, by all means share it with us.


  7. Matthew says:

    I know of certain profiles where there is a high probability that a significant number of the positive reviews for a contractor are written by one individual – likely the contractor. I posted a negative review and had to provide full documentation proving the interaction I commented on happened in the first place. My belief in these systems has been undermined as it seems to favour false positives.

  8. Tom c says:

    I dislike how a customer must confirm a review or be asked for proof that the work was performed. It’s also a violation of privacy. Asking a customer for an invoice or other forms of financial information through the Internet should be illegal. I had a customer use my phone and my email to post a review. Because of that they marked it suspicious. The home owner provided a invoice on their request and then was told he didn’t didn’t write the review. .. no I have a suspicious on my trust score for a 100% truthful review

  9. I had a recent experience with Trusted Pros. I had a daughter of my customer take exception to her mother entering into an agreement with me after the project was complete. The daughter tried to posted an unflattering review on Trusted Pros. The mother who hired me was happy with the job and paid in full. The daughter not so much. Because the daughter did not hire me, her mother did Trusted Pros delisted her post because the daughter could not provide “proof of Hire”
    Thanks Trusted Pros

  10. I’ve recently come across a business on Homestars that I believe is posting fake reviews 100+ reviews that are very well written extolling all aspects of the company (too well written IMO) and they are winners as ‘top company’ 4 years in a row – they have 1 or maybe 2 reviews on the other review platforms (over 4 years?) – something seems fishy – I’m digging deeper before I make any pointed accusations though

  11. Scott says:

    Homestars allows fake reviews to be posted. There is another contractor where I live that was posting fake reviews and won the award “best if homestars 2016” while the other guys and myself are actually doing good work and having to give promos to have the customer give a review.

  12. Those review platforms are both influential in the home services space so it’s important they take the steps to ensure reviews are as legitimate as possible.

  13. Manny Be says:

    Thanks for this valuable and very informative post!!

  14. I believe that people are focusing on the wrong thing here. This company seems to operate like a protection racket. “Gee, the free listing we generated for your company (and refuse to remove) is getting reviews. It sure would be terrible if bad reviews start to show up and you have no way to respond. Unless you upgrading to a paid listing, of course.”

    Just had a call today and her final words before she hung up on me, “I hope your reputation doesn’t suffer.”

  15. Michael says:

    Unfortunately, when faced with fake reviews, and directories that are slow or unresponsive to requests to investigate, the easiest way is to work on getting positive reviews.

    It can be time-consuming, it can be difficult, but the final result will be worthwhile. That said, even if you do not have fake reviews on your name, you should be always working on making sure you have a positive reputation online.

  16. Vince M says:

    We run a plumbing company, and I have noticed over the years that a lot of our competition has hundreds of reviews. Most seem generic. I don’t believe Google is doing a great job filtering these out.

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