/ Shopping

Could you spot a fake review?

What if those glowing customer reviews we see aren’t honest or impartial, or don’t reflect the person’s true experience? This is the world of fake reviews.

In 2018, we went undercover to find out whether shoppers are right to be putting their trust in customer reviews on sites such as Amazon. We found:

⚠ A network of Facebook groups set up to reimburse shoppers for Amazon purchases in exchange for positive reviews. Just seven of these groups had more than 87,000 members

⚠ Sellers demanding a high or five-star rating in return for a refund on their purchase

⚠ Refusal to reimburse costs when ‘honest’ reviews were posted

We set up a dedicated account on Amazon, Facebook and PayPal to join Facebook groups such as Amazon Deals Group and Amazon UK Reviewers. You can find out more about our investigation and findings by reading the facts about fake reviews.

So what’s the problem?

Fake reviews can artificially inflate ratings, as well as how high up the product appears in searches, and can mislead customers in to buying poor-quality devices.

In our 2018 survey 97% of members of the public told us they use customer reviews when researching a product, and 31% of people told us they had bought a product because of excellent customer scores and had been disappointed.

How to spot a fake review

If you’re concerned about fake reviews, consider the steps below to avoid falling for them, and potentially making a purchase you’ll regret:

ℹ Don’t get star-struck – go beyond the top ratings and read the written reviews

ℹ Do the reviews sound natural? Are they very long or very short? Are there repetitive phrases within or between reviews?

ℹ Check the dates – if a lot of reviews are clustered together in a short time period, it might indicate a push for positive reviews via Facebook groups

ℹ Overly positive reviewers – click on the reviewer’s username to see what else they’ve reviewed, and how they’ve rated it

ℹ Polarising reviews – if the reviews are mostly five stars or one star then it’s a warning sign – it’s unlikely that people would consistently have such different experiences with a product

Do you feel confident spotting fake reviews? What tips and tricks do you use, and what sorts of things might make you feel suspicious?

Have you ever bought a product as a result of a customer review, only to run into serious problems?

We’re also keen to know if you’ve been asked to leave a positive review when you’ve purchased a product – especially if you’ve been offered an incentive for doing so.

Let us know in the comments below.

Bridget says:
31 May 2019

I use Amazon a lot and generally find that the more detailed the review, the more likely it is to be truthful – someone’s genuinely held opinion. I have seldom had to return anything, and when I did Amazon were quick to refund. Actually, Which, I did wonder if one of your reviews was spoofed recently? You were really enthusiastic about a relatively low-priced mattress which was actually old technology. I was researching buying a new mattress at the time and from all the other info I had I wondered if your review had been sent out by someone else?

Hi Bridget, Sorry to hear you were disappointed about one of our mattress reviews.

You can read more here about how we test mattresses. There are some inexpensive mattresses that score well in our tests as they perform well in the tests we put them through.


P Griffin says:
1 June 2019

Hi I know a lady who nearly had her business ruined by children she had previously taught finding her on google and leaving really bad reviews with one star. Luckily 16 year old boys don’t wear wedding gowns but it still impacted as although the reviews were taken down the stars have remained!!

I notice on the sites that sell fake handbags from China that the glowing reviews are in suspect English. Rather like scam Emails

Why are you looking at fake handbags and even then why are you bothering with reviews in that case?!

Don’t fake handbags deserve fake reviews?

Nice 🙂

K.Gilbey says:
1 June 2019

It’s a shame nowadays. That we are so reliant on these online shopping sites .What happened to go out and see the product/s in person/ ask in real life .
Security of these sites is much to be desired. I myself am not computer savvy.Having in the past been scammed.I reluctantly stopped this online.shopping “call me Old school..not bothered…Its. my decision to do this.
Talking to people face to face.see a reaction is the best review. Sorry if I’ve upset the apple cart!!… KG

Liz says:
1 June 2019

I frequently shop at John Lewis Always read their reviews and trust their accuracy. Never been disappointed.

Neil says:
1 June 2019

My Brother used to work for John Lewis in the IT department and his main job was to create fake five start reviews all day long.

I don’t know if I believe this. It doesn’t sound like the sort of thing a company like John Lewis would involve themselves in. Fake brother maybe.

I shop a lot on Amazon. Always read reviews. Am suspidiots when not a balanced view. Someone has to have disliked the product, it’s only human nature! Back up is that Amazon are always on your side and quick to refund. Other sites not so quick but you pick and chooseasy. .it’s up to you.

Love these new words I’m learning: Suspidiots = suspicious of idiots and Chooseasy = It’s easy to choose reputable companies.

Thank you Jane.

Christopher Roberts says:
1 June 2019

I always read the bad reviews first. But these also can be fake, if written by a rival. But that would be quite easy to spot, easier than with the good reviews.

Lesley White says:
1 June 2019

I use Amazon quite a lot and I do read all the written reviews before purchasing a completely unknown product. I have left good reviews for things and bad reviews. On a couple of the bad reviews, the seller has contacted me asking me to remove them on the basis that it takes a long time to build up a good reputation. My response has always been that that is not my problem. Give me good service and the goods that I’ve ordered be as advertised and you’ll get a good review

I once gave a bad review on Amazon to a Chinese product. I had two issues: a very long delivery time; and a minor technical issue that the user could easily fix with an extra product. After posting my review I received several emails via Amazon from the company asking me to improve my rating. I ignored these as in writing my review I had given careful consideration to highlighting these issues in my comments. While I had some sympathy with the supplier I knew that if they did not take the criticism on board then they would never improve their product or service.

john says:
1 June 2019

Together energy on trust pilot.i think their own staff are leaving 5star reviews.with very similar comments mentioning a member of staff being very helpful over the phone.

susan says:
1 June 2019

i have never used amazon, if i am looking for a product wether on ebay or google search i try to find as much information as possible, if i am in any doubt i will buy a named brand for a little bit extra that has information readily available on the manufacturers web site.
Of course just because a product is on ebay it doesn’t mean it’s the best price, always do your homework, a bit of extra time searching can save you money and a lot of time if you want a refund for inferior goods.

I rarely look at reviews as most of them are not to be trusted. I just go by gut instinct which has rarely let me down – then I have no one to blame but myself. Most people are too easily influenced by others’ opinions – then, if things go wrong, there is someone else to blame for their poor choice. However, I buy very little online as I like to see and feel (if possible) the product before spending my money.

dave says:
2 June 2019

I am often being asked by an insurance company to rate based on my experience purchasing the insurance. I think this is ridicules; an insurance can only be rated according to its payout not how easy it is to purchase it online.

barbara Nobbs says:
2 June 2019

I ignore the initial ‘give us a good review’. Delivery, service, etc. should be all right. The only time you need to comment is when something has been excellent, very seldom, or when there is a problem.

chris owen says:
2 June 2019

I purchased a submersible pump frm oypla.com. The reviews were all 5 star. The advertised output was 12,500 litres per hour (and still is). When the pump arrived, the enclosed manual said the pumps output is 7,500 litres/hour. I complained but they did not address the issue. I tried to post a 2 star review, but this was rejected ,Beware !

If the pump does not meet the advertised specification you could have contacted the company promptly and asked for a full refund. If you have not used the product and kept all the packaging there should be no problem and they have to give you a refund rather than a credit note.

I missed the bit where it said Chris received a credit note and not a refund?

Chris, if you paid on credit card you would have been able to raise a refund via them.
Secondly, who the heck are oypla.com? if you’re buying from some random website then that’s going to be even more suspect as the reviews on companies on sites for their own products can be very easily faked. You need to tread and read carefully.

This is where independent retailers offer an advantage as they can have a verification system in place for independent reviews.

Mick says:
4 June 2019

Chris did not receive a credit note.

I have just bought the same pump, with the same specs, I got in touch with them and they said they will email me back within 24 hours. They have not addressed the problem, I think the next thing to do is to report them to trading standards. They should of told all sellers to amend the description to match what it says in the manual.

I have noticed when I do try to give an honest negative review ( not often thankfully ), I get a message saying it can’t be posted, and can I re-word it.(or something to that effect) So it is not worth my time if they will only show positive ones.The reviews contained no bad language or anything derogatory simply were not ” glowing” and were accurate.

I sell coffee on Amazon & we welcome good & bad reviews – it’s how we make our product better. Amazon assures us that they are deleting “fake reviews” & we do see our reviews decline from time to time. Amazon & Facebook need to take to each other to close down the FB groups which buy peoples reviews for products. Until this happens I’m not sure how they will deal with it.

Fred Ryan says:
3 June 2019

I learned my lesson 10+years ago, when I was too premature in recommending a company that supplied a Conservatory to us,…..the after sales complaints we made while it was still under warranty, have to this day not been settled…. The firm has changed it’s name and won’t recognise the complaint.

It’s my belief, for reasons that I hope are obvious, that 2-, 3- and 4-star reviews are almost always genuine. The 1s and 5s should be treated with caution, though they are certainly not guaranteed to be the old phonus-bolonus (as Damon Runyan would have said).

My partner and I write painstakingly accurate, balanced reviews of hotels/apartments, products etc. Wish everyone was like us. I’ve found that I agree with most reviews of products eg bought on Amazon. But, I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve walked into a hotel or apartment etc, booked on hotel.com or booking.com etc…reviewed at 9.00+….and in our opinion worthy of a lowly 5 or 6. We’ve found out the hard way that writing accurate reviews can get you hostile responses by email or phone from hotel/b & b owners etc. When booking on hotels reservations sites, you normally have to provide your email address and/or mobile no. for check-in arrangements- and owners therefore can contact you instantly if you dare to write a negative (accurate) review afterwards. We had a terrible experience in Croatia, but daren’t write a truthful review of that apartment….as the owner has all our contact details….The reservations site knows about that experience, as I emailed them directly.