Spotting a fake Review online

May 10, 2019

Purchasing goods online can sometimes feel like playing Russian roulette as you can never be 100 percent sure of what you are getting. Many people will be familiar with at least one horror story associated with online shopping, from goods not being received, goods being misrepresented and misleading advertising. While many online retailers will work to be completely honest with you, there are others who may not place a similar value on customer satisfaction.

The Council has received countless complaints where individuals have made purchases online based on advertisements but received a totally different product.  There have been instances in the past where consumers have made payments to individuals selling items, only to be left at a loss when the traders do not deliver the products.

With more local traders and even some individuals turning to online marketplaces to do business it is important to ensure that consumers have confidence in the online environment. So how can consumers ensure they are getting what they pay for and are not being fleeced by an unscrupulous trader? The truth is that this is very difficult to do. However there are tips that consumers can follow to increase their chances of being safe while purchasing online

One reliable method to ensure that you do not fall prey to unscrupulous online traders is to read reviews and make an informed decision. However the question is – how can we be sure that the reviews we read are legitimate? How do we know that they are not fake reviews designed to influence consumers to purchase goods from the trader? Many online retailers will have multiple reviews of their goods and products but sometimes it becomes hard to determine whether reviews are honest or not.

Power of Reviews

The United Kingdom Consumer Advocacy Body, Which?, found that many retailers on social media incentivised reviews by either giving their product away to people or paying multiple persons to review it. This poses obvious problems for consumers who are trying to get an honest review of a product. They also put together a list of tips to assist consumers with spotting fake reviews.

So how can I spot a Fake Review?

Inspect the comments

It is foolish to rely on star ratings alone, consumers must look at comments about the product they want to purchase as well. They should look at these reviews and ask critical questions about the reviews.

  • Is the reviewer being over the top about the product?
  • Is the review too long or too short?
  • Does the review include specifics about the product?
  • How much useful information does the review give about the product itself?
  • Does the review repeat similar information, phrases or titles of other reviews?
  • Does the reviewer’s name appear on other reviews of the product?                      

Be suspicious of a large number of reviews

Large number of reviews should immediately arouse suspicion in consumers. Is the product really this popular or did the manufacturer of that product incentivised reviews in order to help sell the product. The dates of reviews can also be significant, if many were posted around the same time, they could mean that the seller used social media to drum up feedback from a large number of people.

Look for verified purchases

If a reviewer is verified it means that the marketplace they are commenting on can confirm that they used their site to purchase the product. While they can be influenced by sellers, verified reviews are still much more reliable than ones posted anonymously.

Non-verified reviews mean the marketplace couldn’t confirm where they bought that product or what price they paid for it. On most marketplaces, ‘verified purchase’ or something similar will appear next to the reviewer’s name.

Check the reviewer’s other reviews

Another Good way to identify if a review is authentic is to check other reviews they have left on other products and services. If they have reviewed everything they’ve purchased with five stars and have many other reviews, it’s likely their praise has been bought.

Consumers who would like further advice on spotting fake reviews are advised to call the National Consumer Helpline on toll-free number 155.