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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.

Stuart Green says:
27 June 2021

I purchased a pack of anti slip pads for in a shower. I gave a review and was contacted to change my review with the incentive for a free pack . I changed my review as the pads did work but never received the gift. I reported the whole story to Amazon twice and received no reply.

Alistair Blythman says:
29 June 2021

We were invited to the opening night of a local restaurant through a friend. I had a look on trip advisor and was amazed to see it was already the top restaurant in Newcastle, with 5 5 star reviews… pretty good considering the builders wer still in, and it had not yet opened. Now, 5 years on it is a well established well respected restaurant, but I still am wary of their tactics. If they cheat on their reviews do they cheat elsewhere?

William Barrett says:
30 June 2021

I bought a hifi cabinet from amazon and didn’t fill in the review email that that the send you ,a week later I received a letter in the post offering to send me a £10.00 cheque if I gave a review