How to Spot Fake Online Reviews

Researching and evaluating a company or service has become much easier thanks to the internet, but not all online reviews are created equal.

Research shows that fake reviews are prevalent on the world wide web, created by people that work for the company or are hired to make the business look good. But it’s not only the companies doing the faking. According to Review Trackers, 21% of Americans have written a review for a product or service they never used.

“The fake review problem exists in the first place because the marketing potential of reviews is just huge,” says Chris Campbell, chief executive and founder of Review Trackers, a service that helps businesses aggregate and manage online reviews . “Business owners have thus seen it fit to try and game the system, and they pay hired review writers to pose as happy customers in order to improve their business reputation.”

While it’s hard to differential the real from the bogus reviews, experts say there are telltale signs to look out for. Here’s their top four:

Fraud Alert No.1: Too Good to Be Trrue

Nobody is perfect, and a company, product or service with nothing but five-star reviews should cause consumers to pause.

“If all you see is five stars, you got to start suspecting these guys work for the manufacture,” says Udi Ledergor, chief executive of online review company Yotpo. “Even when you are happy with a product there are usually some negatives.”

Fraud Alert No.2: Product Feature Reviews

Emotion is a main part of the buying process, which means it should also show up in reviews.

According to Campbell, real reviewers will talk about the value and performance of the product or service instead of solely focusing on the features.  What’s more, he says real review writers typically include information about how they used the product and how it worked. Reviews that only list the features with no emotion or interaction with it  tend to be fake, he says.

Fraud Alert No.3: Language in Review is Exact and Not Everyday

Authors of fake reviews want their review t show up high in search results, which is why they will make a point of using the exact product name and model numerous times through a review.  They also tend to use words the average person wouldn’t such as “explosive speed” or “revolutionary cutting-edge technology”, says Campbell.

“No one talks like that, so it’s reasonable to expect the review to be fake,” he says.

Fraud Alert No.4: Too Polished of Pictures

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and when it comes to the legitimacy of a review, an overly-polished image or one that is found all over the internet could signal a counterfeit review.

“Consumers often focus on the review text, but accompanying photos and videos can also reveal which reviews could be fake,” says Campbell. “If the pictures look too professional, or if a Google image search produces results for the same photos in various review sites, then it’s more likely that the review is fake.“

Spotting fake reviews is a necessity for consumers, but it’s also the job of the e-tailers. The number of fake reviews varies from site to site and depends on their policies and filters. Many have their own review filters in place and are also making sure consumers know which reviews are for real. “On Amazon you’ll see reviews tagged with ‘verified purchase’; on Expedia you’ll see reviews written by those who actually made a booking through the site, and OpenTable accepts reviews only from verified diners who honored their reservations,” says Campbell.