Did you know that many online reviews are fake?
Many people look at online customer reviews before buying a product or using a service.
Do you use the experience of previous buyers to decide whether the product you want to buy is as good as the advertisements claim? If so, then you must be reading the online reviews. For example, you might do a search on Amazon to see if that new fish filter is as amazing as the company claims. Or you might do a general search online (type the product name and the word ‘reviews’ in the search box) to check out that new face cream everyone is talking about. A general search will lead you to many other review web pages.
All of this review research is very important when you want to buy something new, especially something that is expensive, but as you read review after review, you need to ask yourself, “Is this review real?”
You expect to find the truth from real people, not the company’s marketing department. But this pre-purchase research is only good to follow if the reviews can be trusted. Very few people stop to think about whether the comments made are real or fake – whether the companies are scamming their customers.
The reality of the matter is that some companies are manipulating customer reviews to get customers to buy their product or service.
According to Bing Liu, a data-mining expert, about one-third of online customer reviews are part of a fake-reviews scam. These fake reviews are written by retailers or marketers – not real customers!
How To Spot Fake Review Scams
Sometimes the reviews seem so real! How will you know which ones are real and which ones are scams? Luckily, there are a few ways to spot these fake reviews and defend yourself from the influence of scammers.
Watch out for these signs of fake product reviews
- They have almost all positive reviews. Businesses and products will always have their haters.
- Excessive use of “always, never, everyone, no one.”
- Overuse of “I, me and we” (perhaps to show that they are ‘real’ people).
- Very short review, marked as a 5-star or 1-star review.
- Review just says the product is great or terrible – no details – very vague.
- Overly emotional language: Amazing! Life-changing! Worst ever!
- Too many exclamation marks.
- Too many words written in all caps. “I LOVE IT!!!”
- Writes the entire name of the product several times in the review. Who does that?!
- Just sounds too good (or bad) to be true.
- Focuses on themselves (their travel plans, their family, etc) and not the product.
Signs of Real Reviews
- A good mix of positive and negative reviews overall.
- Details on the exact reason a product is good or bad.
- Gives actual information about the product, not just an emotional judgement.
- Gives a balanced review: mentions both the good and the bad of the product.
Ask yourself: Is this review helpful? Does the review provide useful information that helps me decide whether to buy the product? The key words here are useful information. If the review just relies on emotional language, that’s not useful.
Tricks to Spot a Fake Reviews Scam
For something low risk, like a tube of mascara, just reading the reviews is probably enough. But if you are buying something very expensive, such as a laptop, it will be worth it to go a step further.
- Look up the item on multiple review sites (not just Amazon or the site you are buying it from).
- Run the product though Fakespot (Fakespot looks at all the reviews for that product and gives the entire set of reviews a score).
- Is one review really convincing you to buy? Run that exact review through Review Skeptic.
* note: Both Fakespot and Review Skeptic are not perfect, so use your own judgement on the results.
3 Top Tips!
Focus on the 2, 3 and 4-star reviews.
Pay the most attention to reviews that give good and bad points in one review.
Disregard (or read with a critical eye) the highest and lowest ratings: the 1-star and 5-star reviews.
Too good to be true?
Reviews that are almost all positive may be fake. Some companies pay people to write positive (very, very positive!) reviews.
The Fluffy Nutter cleaning tool has absolutely changed my life! My friend said I had to try it, and she was right. I use it all the time now and have recommended it to ALL my friends. If you want to have the cleanest house with almost no effort, you have to have your own Fluffy Nutter cleaning tool. You won’t be disappointed!
Too bad to be true?
Reviews that are almost all negative may be fake. Sometimes competitors will actually pay people to leave bad reviews on other company’s products.
This product sucks! If I could give it zero stars I would. Do not be fooled by the other positive reviews here. They are total LIES!!! I would NEVER use this again. Do not buy!
Honorable mentions: The funny reviews!
If you have spent any considerable amount of time on Amazon, you are sure to run into reviews that are clearly fake, but absolutely hilarious! The reviewer is not trying to fool you, but rather entertain you. The review is usually so over-the-top fake, that it is just written for a good laugh.
One of the most famous ones is the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer on Amazon. The over 5,000 reviews are must-reads!
Picture via Amazon
Two great examples:
- For years, a rift has existed in my family. When we were young my sister and I were close and got along well until bananas and their slicing tore our relationship asunder. Our arguments over who had to slice that crescent yellow fruit were epic. The confrontation grew so large that, as an adult, she moved to the coast to avoid further disputes. I recently sent her the Hutlzer 571 banana slicer as a gift, which, while it dismantles bananas, has repaired our family. Thank you Hutlzer!
- I tried the banana slicer and found it unacceptable. As shown in the picture, the slicer is curved from left to right. All of my bananas are bent the other way.
The reviews are actually getting so out of control that people are not even sure the product is real anymore. If you decide to order one, and get an actual banana slicer in the mail, let us know! We can put that rumor to rest.
A More Balanced Approach
Here is an example of a good review. It addresses the positive and negative aspects of the product. And it actually gives useful information about the product, not just emotional language.
This cooler is a nice size and does a good job of staying cold for 3-4 days if you put enough ice in it. However like some reviewers already mentioned, the drain spout might leak a little. It’s not a huge problem if you put the cooler away from your campsite. But if you want to keep it on a picnic table, you might get a wet mess. I called the company about this, and they sent out a rubber washer to put in the spout which did fix the problem. Overall, I do recommend the cooler because it keeps the food cold so long and it’s nice and big, but make sure to watch for leaking. If it does leak, call the company for a replacement washer.
Catching the Scammers
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a special department set up for dealing with fake reviews scams. If a person or company is caught breaking the ‘truth in advertising’ laws, the FTC will stop them. To report a person or business, just call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or you can also fill out a complaint form online.
Contact the company where the fake review has been posted.
For example, TripAdvisor warns its customers that some of its online reviews may be scams, and they’re searching for methods to detect and eliminate fake reviews. If you see a review you think is a scam on TripAdvisor, just click on the ‘report’ flag icon next to the review.
Amazon also actively patrols for fake review scams with their ‘anti-manipulation policy.’ If Amazon catches a company or person leaving fake reviews, they will actually ban both the company and the reviewer from their site. They have even gone as far as suing offenders! On Amazon, every review has a ‘report abuse’ link next to it for you to take action.
Yelp is famous for connecting customers to local businesses, especially restaurants. It is vital that the reviews be accurate and trustworthy because Yelp’s reputation depends on this accuracy. Inaccurate reviews means customers will not trust Yelp and will turn to a different review website. To protect their reputation and you, Yelp has a sophisticated ‘review filter.’ Yelp makes it very easy to report fake reviews. Just click on the ‘report this review’ flag icon next to the offending review.
Be Financially Safe and Read Reviews With a Critical Eye
Asurea offers Life Insurance, Mortgage Protection Life Insurance, Medicare Supplement Insurance, Final Expense Insurance, Disability Insurance, Long-term Care Insurance, Retirement Planning products and more. For additional information, click on the ‘Learn more’ button below. Want to have articles just like this delivered to your inbox? Just enter your email address in the box below and click ‘Subscribe.’
This information is provided for general consumer educational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax or investment advice.