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How to spot fake reviews

Patrick Christys
Jul 16, 2019

Fake reviews are an absolute nightmare. You find a product you like online, check the reviews, they're all five stars, so you make a purchase...only to find out the product is naff.

It makes you wonder how so many people could have given stellar reviews, doesn't it?

Well, it's because those reviews are fake. They've been bought by the company as a front to make them look good so they can line their pockets with your hard earned cash while they rip you off.

It's basically fraud - and it's happening on a grand scale as so many sellers on eBay, Facebook and other platforms look to cash in from your misery.

But how can you tell if a review is fake?

• Be suspicious if a product has received a lot of five-star reviews in short space of time – on the same day for example. Be particularly wary if the product does not have a well-known brand. If the best-reviewed products are new or unheard of brands, and the top brands are ranked lower, be sceptical.

• Don’t just look at the star ratings of a product: read the reviews. Do they sound natural or are they short and repetitive, using a lot of the same phrases? If so, beware.

• Where possible, filter your search for verified reviews (this means the reviewer bought the item or service). But remember to also treat this with caution – sometimes a consumer may have been refunded for a product they bought in return for a positive review.

• Look at the reviewer’s history – have they given everything a five-star rating? What else did they buy? If they have bought 20 sets of similar headphones in the past week, for example, this should ring alarm bells.

• For hotel reviews, be wary of those that list the local amenities or attractions. Genuine hotel guests tend to focus on the room – space and cleanliness, for example, and hotel food: not what activities families can do nearby.

Consumer lobby group Which? has done extensive research on fake reviews and believes they are a growing menace.

Which? found tens of thousands of five-star “unverified” reviews on Amazon during their latest investigation in April this year. An unverified review is one posted by someone who did not purchase the item.

Thousands of unverified reviews were posted on the same day and for the same products - typically tech devices, such as headphones, dash cams, fitness trackers and phone chargers with unknown brand names.

Trustpilot, a supposedly trusted review website (the clue's in the name, right?!), was criticised earlier this year for allowing companies to manipulate its systems by challenging genuine reviews that are negative or critical.

Companies figured out that if they didn't like a review they could challenge it. When they challenge it, the review gets taken down. So it's invisible to other, unsuspecting customers.

But then once it's been deemed accurate it is reposted - only much further down the list of reviews. This can mislead customers and lead to them wasting their money.

Under consumer law, traders must “exercise professional diligence” towards customers: this means, for example, they must not make false claims about a product or service, or falsely represent themselves as a happy customer – for example by posting a positive review on their own website.


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