By Rick Sallinger

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4)– A national company headquartered in Colorado has shut down an internal contest after a CBS4 investigation found employees posting favorable online reviews for their own firm. Colorado-based company Impact Communities owns more than 180 mobile home communities.

CBS4’S Rick Sallinger asked a resident, “On a scale of one to five how many stars would you give this mobile home community?”

“I am not going to answer that question, I have to live here,” he replied.

A contest was offered, not for residents, but for its own employees. Impact Communities offered a $2000 cash prize for more reviews on Google.

Employees took the bait.

(credit: CBS)

“My company is having a HUGE contest where I can make tons of money! Could everyone go and give me quick shout out and a 5-star review,” one worker posted on their Facebook page.

“I’m hijacking my husband’s phone tonight to give all of you another review. If I see any other kids I’ll grab their phones,” an internal email read.

An employee of Impact asked us to not use his face or voice.

Sallinger asked him, “Were employees told to disclose that the reviews of the company were by their own employees?”

His answer was an emphatic, “No.”

Sallinger then asked the Federal Trade commission in Washington, “If they are not disclosing that they work for the company they are reviewing, is that deception?“

(credit: CBS)

Richard Cleland, with the FTC Division of Advertising Practices replied, “It’s been our position that yes. It’s deceptive practice not to disclose if an employee is posting a review of a company and not disclosing.”

The reviews were often five stars, praising the mangers, staff and the homes.

Impact’s CEO told CBS4 by email they were supposed to get reviews from customers and thought, “they had done everything by the book.”

However, the same employee claims some of the company’s top management wrote some reviews themselves.

The mobile home communities may be good, but perhaps it’s best not to believe online reviews, especially if they are written by the company’s employees.

Rick Sallinger