You’ve probably heard the word shill before. They can be annoying and make it difficult for you to discern truth from fiction. Out-of-control shilling leads naive consumers to purchase a low-quality or faulty product that can be dangerous for health and economic reasons. So the best way to avoid getting duped is by knowing how shill behavior manifests.

What Is A Shill

What exactly is a shill? Let’s start with what it’s not. A shill is not a casual endorsement from friends or acquaintances. Nor is it a paid advertisement. So what is it?

Simply put, a shill pretends to be a satisfied customer to promote a product or service. Companies often hire them to generate buzz and create an air of legitimacy around their products. You might have seen them at a crowded trade show booth, shouting out the virtues of a new gadget or gizmo. Or maybe you’ve been approached by one in an online forum, pretending to be an ordinary person just like you who just happened to stumble upon a fantastic deal.

Shill Meaning And Definition

The term “shill” comes from the carnival world, an employee whose job is to support or promote another worker’s performance.

In reality, a shill is somebody who publicly praises or promotes someone or something but works covertly on their behalf. A celebrity shill will make public appearances on behalf of a company endorsing the product while acting like it is not paying them. A shill can also be an enthusiastic party to a financial scheme, and the more people who get sucked into it, the better for the instigator.

Shilling Behaviors

Posting on forums to get a discussion about unrelated topics, so shill posts appear more genuine. This is called “forum sliding,” another way shills can try to trick you into buying something.

  • posting negative reviews about competitors
  • deliberately promoting low prices for products or services
  • defending shills, even when you show proof that they are shills

Is It Legal

For example, in the UK, marketers must state that they have received undisclosed payments or inducements to endorse a product. Shilling in this context means “the promotion of a real-life performer by someone who poses as an enthusiastic customer.” The act of covertly using undisclosed shills (also called stealth marketing) occurs more regularly than most people realize.

Shill Examples

A shill (or “plant”) is often an employee who manufactures or sells a product and makes public appearances at a trade show and similar events. They represent the company and praise its products directly to its customers.

They get portrayed as having expertise in the company’s area. A professional shill’s actions are part of a broader strategy known as type riding, i.e., misrepresenting oneself as an ordinary person when participating in online fora.

The Original Shill

The “shill” appears in stage magic, especially the three-card monte routine. A shill pretends to be an audience member like any other.

Still, it secretly plays a part in the trick, often pretending to trip up the magician with his cane while performing a scheme so that it would appear self-working and thereby more amazing.

Slang Word

The slang term “shill” also refers to an evil person who publicly helps, supports, or defends someone with vested interests in an attempt to legitimize them, knowing is wrong. The word shill got popularized by the movie Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. A “shill” can also be someone who knowingly spreads incorrect information about an unsavory topic, event, or product for self-serving reasons. The person doing this is known as a “shill,” often in internet slang.

Shill Types

The media shill carries with it connotations of covert support but has no inherent connection to whether the support is ethical or not. It simply refers to someone supporting something without disclosing their affiliation to the supportive group.

Manufacturers hire industry shills to tout their products online at sites like, eBay, Home Shopping Network, or other sites that accept reviews. Shills are often paid bonuses for each sale that they successfully generate.

Reverse Shilling

The third type of shill is a person who replies solely to reveal the identity of the original poster (or “OP”) to suggest any endorsement or approval of whatever the message said.

Shill Sites

These are websites set up by actors posing as typical customers who post fake reviews about specific products that only exist to support their clients. It’s unclear how much of this illegal practice is unless these companies agree with retailers who would be considered collusion.

  • Class-action lawsuits have been filed against some companies because their practices violate consumer protection laws in different countries.
  • This led to Google changing its policies in 2015 to forbid incentivized reviews (unless they are facilitated through the Google Trusted Store Program).


Many people and companies are falling for the shill game, so knowing how to recognize them is essential. We have compiled a list of tips you should know to avoid getting duped If any of these warning signs ring true, take caution before investing in their offer because there could very well be something fishy going on.

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