How to spot fake reviews
Fake reviews are a blight upon our digital landscape. They mislead consumers into buying products and services they don't want or need and waste everyone's time. In addition to being misleading, fake reviews are everywhere. Consumers report seeing fake reviews on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Reddit; shopping sites like Amazon, eBay, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, and others; and even on Google reviews itself.
8 in 10 Americans have seen fake reviews in the past year. And while most people think they'll recognize a fake review, only about one in four do.
The Effects of Fake Reviews on Businesses
Businesses may falsely claim that their products are superior to those of rivals, even though they aren't. They may post false information about their competitors, such as misleading product reviews. Or they may write positive reviews without disclosing their affiliation with the brand being reviewed.
Fake reviews are often posted by people who want to make money off of the good name of another person or business. These individuals may pay for fake reviews or ask friends and family members to do so on their behalf. Sometimes, businesses hire PR firms to place fake reviews on their behalf.
There are plenty of reasons why someone might want to fabricate a review. Some people like to see others fail. Others are looking for revenge. And some want to make money. There are also unscrupulous businesses that use fake reviews to trick consumers into buying their products.
So how does a business determine whether a review is real or fake? Unfortunately, there's no foolproof way to determine whether something is authentic or not. But here are some tips that may help you decide whether it is a legitimate or suspicious review.
Eight ways to spot fake reviews online.
User reviews are an internet phenomenon. Before the modern web, they were the only means by which regular people could give feedback about products and companies. Now, anyone can leave their opinion online.
As consumers, we're bombarded with fraudulent reviews everywhere we turn. From social media posts to online forums to product listings, there are often multiple reviews about anything you care to look up. While many of us might assume that all reviews are genuine, the reality is that most aren't.
Fake reviews are usually posted by people trying to make money from someone else's hard work. They do this by paying others to write fraudulent reviews or by writing themselves. It probably is if you see a review that seems too good to be true.
However, not all review sites are legitimate reviews site. Fake online review sites are more common than you might think, and they can trick you into buying something you otherwise would not. Here we'll look at some of the most common warning signs that a review site isn't accurate.
1. Extreme Negative or Positive Emotion
If a user has posted a one-star review for a product but then leaves a comment saying they're happy with their purchase, that means their intention wasn't honest.
A largely negative or neutral comment is usually accompanied by at least one positive statement. If someone says something fantastic without giving reasons, it's probably because they have been bribed or benefited from the product.
A negative comment without specifics won't help you. If someone is truly upset about something, they'll write a detailed post explaining their concerns.
A recent study found that extreme reviews are less helpful than neutral ones. Researchers looked at over 2 million reviews across five different sites, including Yelp, Amazon, TripAdvisor, and eBay. They found that reviewers tend to give more detail about their experiences when they're neutral rather than emotional. So, don't take things too personally.
2. Personal Stories and Details
Fake reviews like "This product has helped me change my life" are usually bogus. Most normal human beings don't care enough about random products online to write something like that. So if you see one, it probably isn't real.
Similar issues come from reviewing products in story format. Stories tug at your emotions, making people more likely to purchase something than they otherwise would be. Reviews that aren't focused on the reviewer are about the product.
Another common review trend is "I don't usually leave reviews, but…." Treat such examples with a bit of suspicion. It may be a case where something other than genuine enthusiasm prompted the reviewer to leave a positive review.
Reviews that start with "I'm writing this because..." are usually from fake reviewers. They're meant to tug at your heartstrings and make you want to read more. But what happens next? Do you care about the person who wrote the review? Or did they stumble upon this product and decide to post a glowing review? The review doesn't mean much if there's no connection to the actual product.
Another typical review pattern is "I never write anything positive about products, but..." Again, this isn't necessarily a sign that someone is trying to deceive you -- sometimes, people don't know what to say about specific products. However, if the review seems too good to be true, look at the description.
3. Good or Bad Writing Skills
A good review should sound natural, not too formal, and free from spelling mistakes. Fake reviews tend to use poor grammar and may contain spelling mistakes.
A perfectly polished review usually means that someone has been hired to write an extremely positive review. By looking at the author's bio, you may tell if a review sounds too good to be accurate. If no contact info is listed, then the reviewer doesn't exist.
Similarly, if a review is poorly written, it may indicate that it was not written by someone who used the item. Many companies hire writers in foreign countries to write fake reviews for them. These so-called "fake" reviews increase the company's ratings.
A good review reads as if an average consumer wrote it. You'll notice some basic grammar mistakes here and there, but you won't see anything glaringly wrong. If the reviewer uses proper capitalization and punctuation, chances are high that the review is honest. A genuine review will read like a normal conversation.
Conversely, a poorly written review could mean one thing: it's probably fake. There's no telling what a scammer will do to try and trick people into buying something. For example, look out for bland statements that seem too perfect to be true. These reviews often come straight from the product description or a corporate press release. They're usually written by a professional writer whose job is to make sure the product sounds fantastic. On the other hand, a perfectly polished review is a red flag because it suggests that the author was hired to write a positive review. This, in turn, tells us that the product does deserve a glowing review.
4. Excessive Humor
Many people treat product ratings as a way to test their comedic abilities. However, some products may be so ridiculous that they're funny. For example, if someone writes a review for a "salt-free" version of Haribo gummies, that person might not be trying to fool anyone. Instead, they may want to write an honest review.
This is worsened by some online stores like steam, which have a "funny" button under the was this helpful? Column. A common steam store reviews tropes are just writing "it's ok," contrasted with the long time the user has played the product. This doesn't tell anyone whether they should buy the product, so it's useless for a customer.
Ignore any review that doesn't talk about the product. Better ones won't go off on irrelevant tangents like these.
However, if you find yourself laughing at a review, then it's likely that the person wrote it himself. They may be trying to be humorous, but it's also possible that the person is being sarcastic. Either way, don't take it seriously.
5. A Focus on Irrelevant Details
Reviews can provide insight into how well a product works for someone else. But there are plenty of fake reviews that take things too far — like the ones where reviewers claim to have received a free sample or give a review without actually trying the product.
While you shouldn't ignore legitimate negative reviews, a few red flags can indicate a review might be phony. One example is when the reviewer makes a big deal about the package arriving damaged. This could mean the box arrived broken or the person didn't read the instructions properly.
Another sign of a fake review is when the reviewer complains about something unrelated to the product, such as the shipping process or return policies. These complaints aren't helpful since they're irrelevant to the product itself.
If you see a review claiming that the product is worth five-star reviews, but giving a single star to the packaging, check the rest of the review. If the reviewer gives the same rating to everything else, including the product itself, chances are good that the review is bogus.
6. The Reviewer Didn't Purchase the Product
Amazon reviews are one of the most important factors influencing whether or not someone buys something. So how do you tell if the reviewers purchased the items they're talking about? You can check the "Reviewers Owned This Item" section on Amazon's site.
If the reviewer owns the product being discussed, there's a good chance they've been honest about their experience with it. However, remember that even if a reviewer claims to own a product, it doesn't necessarily mean they did buy it. They might have received it as a gift, borrowed it, or won it in a contest.
The best way to determine if a reviewer owns the product they're discussing is to look up the product's name on Amazon's site. If the reviewer owns the listing, they'll see a small button labeled "Owned." Clicking on it takes them directly to the listing, where they can verify ownership.
Of course, this isn't foolproof. Sometimes sellers use multiple accounts to post fake reviews. You can still learn a lot in those cases by looking at the account owners' previous purchases. For example, if someone posts a review for a $5 pair of headphones and then later posts another review for a $100 pair of headphones, you can assume the same person wrote the second review.
7. A mention of a free product
If you ever receive a comment saying, "I got it for free," it could be fake. While some companies give away products in exchange for reviews, others want to ensure that you're happy with their product.
You might notice that many online retailers ask customers to write a review about their experience. This isn't necessarily because they want to pay you for the review; instead, they want to know how good the customer service was. They'll usually send out a survey asking questionable reviews like, "How did you find our site?" and "Did you enjoy shopping here?"
Some companies even ask for specific feedback, like whether they found the prices fair or if there were any problems during checkout.
While it's true that sometimes companies will provide a free product in exchange, it's important to note that most of the time, they're trying to learn more about your experiences. So if you see someone mentioning that they left a review in exchange for a product, or if they seem only to leave reviews for specific brands, treat what they say suspiciously.
This should be made explicit if there is a form of incentive or compensation or a close relationship between an individual giving an endorsement and a company receiving it. The FTC also considers it illegal to incentivize reviews even if there's no requirement that the review is positive.
According to the FTC guides:
8. Website-Controlled Reviews
The number one way to spot fake reviews is to look out for "reviews controlled by the website." These are typically paid for by companies looking to boost their rankings on search engines like Google. They often feature glowing testimonials about how great a product is, even though the reviewer hasn't used the product themselves.
Don't trust any review sites if they're trying to artificially inflate their ratings by showing fake reviews.
Online reviews aren't nearly as valuable as they appear.
Keep these things in mind when reading customer/user feedback to avoid falling for a fake review.
You can combat fake review sites by reporting them. Compare multiple reports to see if they're consistent. Please write your review and make it worthwhile to people who might find it helpful later.
If you're looking to buy something online, it might seem like the best way to find out what people think about a product is to read reviews from actual customers. But sometimes, those reviews aren't customer reviews at all. Instead, they're written by employees of the retailer themselves. These "reviews" are often highly positive, even though they're meant to help sell you a different product. They're called "fake reviews," and they're everywhere.
Fake reviews are especially prevalent on e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and eBay. On these sites, fake reviews can be found in many categories, including electronics, clothing, books, and furniture. You'll know if a review is fake because it doesn't match the description of the reviewed item. For example, a fake book review might describe how it's excellent, but the cover looks terrible. Or a fake review of a shirt might say how comfortable it is, but the picture shows someone wearing a completely different style.
The most popular method to generate fake reviews is called "crowdsourcing." Retailers pay third parties to write fake reviews and post them on the web. When potential buyers go to the store's website to check out the product, they see the fake reviews and assume that the rest of the reviews must be good too.
Crowdsourced reviews are one of the biggest problems facing consumers today. Fake reviews are rampant across virtually every category of retail goods. And while some retailers are taking steps to combat crowdsourced reviews, others are doing nothing.
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