How To Spot Fake Online Reviews

I’ve been contacted a couple of times recently by people who have found my blog on the trustworthiness of online reviews.  

Specifically, one of them wanted to know how accurate and true the reviews on Amazon are after reading this article detailing a scam whereby sellers offer free goods in return for a favourable review.

As more and more people shop, book holidays, buy cars and ultimately live most of their lives online – and are increasingly guided by what others are saying about the product or service they are looking at – it’s clear this issue is never going to go away. There’s research out there that suggests up to 70 per cent of all online reviews are fake.

So, how do you tell the genuinely good reviews from the less than scrupulous ones?

Fake reviews and pointless reviews are different things

My previous blog deals with my biggest bugbear on this topic – companies pestering you for an online review 30 minutes after they’ve despatched the item you’ve ordered from them. How on Earth can you vouch for a business at that stage? You commonly only tell how good customer service is when something goes wrong six months later.

Also, I’d be very wary of trusting a supplier on the basis of a review that reads, ‘Item arrived exactly as described the day after ordering’. Surely that’s the bare minimum you’d expect?

But fake reviews are a whole different ball game.

What is an ‘honest’ review?

For a start, fake reviews are extremely difficult to spot. If they’ve been written by someone who has received a free gift in return, that’s technically a genuine review by a real person. OK, they’re writing whatever the company wants them to write, but you’d need to prove that to be able to prove it wasn’t an honest review.

Some suppliers are more upfront and stick a symbol next to a review that makes clear the reviewer pocketed an incentive to put the review together. You’d have to make your own mind up about how you feel about those.

At least there’s transparency there – but there’s blatantly no neutrality; it hasn’t been written from the perspective of someone genuinely impressed enough by something to jump online and sing its praises.

But there are some things you can look for that can help you establish the veracity of a reviewer.

My tips for sorting the good reviews from the bad

Firstly, do a bit of research and see how many other reviews that person has written. A tell-tale sign of a faker is using similar wording on lots of different service and product reviews.

It’s also worth checking how recent the reviews are. If there’s a quick burst of positive reviews over a short period of time, that suggests the business owner has decided to counter the negative reviews with some of their own.

And the people doing this aren’t idiots. They’re unlikely to produce 50 glowing, five-star reviews and drop them on Trustpilot all in one dollop. They’ll drip-fed them and typically have a small piece of criticism in there among the glowing tributes – anything to make them seem more realistically genuine.

Finally – use your common sense. If there are 59 negative TripAdvisor reviews of a hotel but number 60 says, ‘I don’t know what all these people are talking about, I stayed there with my family, and it was ace’, chances are the proprietor has taken it upon themself to try to redress the balance.

Chas Jordan is the founder of Fair Contract Associates, which offers a low-cost contract-checking service to make sure you’re never tied into a contract that’s unfair or not fit for your needs. If you’re stuck in a bad contract we’ll help you renegotiate your terms and potentially save you thousands. Book an appointment today.