Have you ever heard the word “shill”? It may be that this is brand new to you, but we can assure you that you’ll have seen at least one shill at work either in person or online. If you read forums or reviews you will definitely have come across their work (in varying degrees of quality, we would estimate).
The internet has changed so much about our lives, for better and worse, and few things have been so affected as the way we buy goods and services. It is in this area which shills so greatly excel. Shills are, generally speaking, people who partake in a scam in order to pull victims in or to generate urgency in consumers. This is no different on the internet except that shills online are generally paid to leave reviews or comments which make a certain product or company look good, or alternatively bring down the reputation of the competition.
The evolution of shills
The word, and the tradition, comes from the “shillabers” which were paid by the circuses to mingle with the crowds upon arrival. They would listen to the ringmasters speech and, once it was done, then rush to buy a ticket in order to give a sense of urgency to the “real” customers who would often rush behind them. You might also find that shills are in open auctions today; placed to drive up prices.
How can you distinguish a genuine commenter?
Judging the sincerity of a shill is somewhat of a fine and subtle art which only gets more difficult if the shill in question is a skilled writer. One way in which you can check if a comment was posted by a shill is to copy and paste it into a Google search to see if it has been left elsewhere with different company name. Shills are paid per review or comment, and so they often re-use pieces to up their profit margin and save time. This is very common if they’re switching out a company name to complain and recommend a solution.
Have you experienced the effects of a shill on line or elsewhere? Please share your thoughts.
Related article: Online Scams to Beware