Online Review Scams, What to Look Out for
Updated on October 18, 2021 | by Austin
Around 90% of shoppers read online reviews before choosing to do business with a company. If you’re one of these people, how can you ensure that what you’re reading is honest and accurate? Research shows that 74% of consumers have read false reviews – and say they’re not always easy to spot.
With this in mind here we highlight exactly what to look out for when it comes to checking online reviews and how you can ensure you’re shopping safely at all times.
Look out for overly positive reviews
This may sound obvious but it pays to actually read the reviews instead of just looking at the overall rating. Of course, a five-star review doesn’t mean that a company is necessarily suspicious but usually there will be one customer who wasn’t that happy.
Equally important is looking at the language. Are the reviews using over-the-top words or phrases? If this happens a lot, you might want to consider doing additional research and look for language that suits the context.
Check the Review Dates
Take a look at the dates of when the reviews were submitted. Typically, you want them spaced apart. If lots of reviews have been posted on one day or within a short period, it could mean that the business has incentivized customers to leave a positive review quickly. While this isn’t illegal in itself, they may have requested five-star reviews in return for something.
Pay Attention to the Four-Star Reviews
If a business has requested fake reviews, then it’s likely that these will be five-star. One way to get around this is to look at the other reviews. Customers giving four, three, or even two stars are likely to be giving an honest opinion, meaning you can get a more balanced view.
Be Wary of Unknown Brands
When it comes to shopping with smaller businesses, it’s important to carry out a little extra research if you haven’t done business with them before. While they’re probably run by honest hard-working entrepreneurs, some small businesses do try and get to the top via shortcuts. It takes minutes to search for a website, social media presence, and contact details to check that they are genuine.
Check What the Reviews are About
This goes back to our first point of actually reading the reviews in question. A number of fake reviews are actually merged from other products from the same brand. If you see this, you should be wary. While it could be a genuine mistake, you need to consider the fact that the seller could also be trying to boost and manipulate the product listing.
Look Out for Admitted Bias
It’s not uncommon for businesses to ask for reviews in return for the consumer getting a discount or other incentive. While this isn’t illegal, it can lead to reviews being submitted before the product or service has even been used. For this reason, it’s wise to look out for reviews where the person is admitting they haven’t used/read/finished the product yet or that it was bought for a gift.
Question Whether the Purchase Was Verified
Verified reviews mean that the site can confirm that the product was bought there. When a review isn’t verified, it means that the marketplace doesn’t know where it was bought or how much it was bought for. While a non-verified review doesn’t mean that it’s false, it is something you should be wary of.
Check What Else the Customer Has Bought
This might not be an option on every site but sometimes you’re able to click on the account of who is leaving the review and then see what else they have bought or given an opinion on. If they’ve given the same review to lots of different items, or have a wide range of purchases, it could indicate that they are getting something in return for the review.
If you are doing this, it’s important to exercise your judgment. For example, someone buying six cookery books from different sellers and leaving a review isn’t necessarily a fake reviewer. However, if the reviewer has recently scored on six different pairs of headphones, they could be being paid for their positive write-ups.
Think You’ve Spotted a Fake Review?
Most marketplaces and websites have a process for reporting or flagging this. If not, contact the seller or marketplace so that they can look into it. By doing this, you can help other consumers from losing money and ensure that the businesses with a presence online are the ones that deserve it.
Next, you can read: Why Reading Reviews Matters — Especially for Meds & Supplements