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Wednesday 24th July 2024

Top tips for spotting fake online reviews

Richa Ved warns of the rise in fake online reviews. To spot them, she advises checking content, language, and patterns, using tools like FakeSpot, and knowing consumer rights.


The world of online shopping continues to boom, and the convenience of buying online nowadays is undeniable. Like me and many others, you most probably resort to purchasing online more often than not. 

However, amidst this convenience lies a concerning trend: the surge in fake reviews. 

In the digital age, some online sellers are resorting to deceptive tactics, like fake or paid reviews, to paint a rosy picture of their products and services to attract customers.

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This poses a risk of misinformation before you can experience the actual product. And the absence of face-to-face interactions online means you must be vigilant. 

So, how do you distinguish a real review from a fake one?

  • The content of the review: Any reviews that are too black or white might be ones to watch out for. Genuine reviews often strike a balance to reflect the reality of the product. 

Skewed or imbalanced reviews on a product – like a barrage of five stars (potentially paid for) or a cluster of negative reviews (possibly instigated by a competitor) – should raise a red flag too. 

Authentic reviews tend to delve into specifics, in comparison to fake reviews that have overly vague, or generic descriptions, lack details, and often lack accompanying images.

On the other hand, reviews packed with too many keywords or phrases, consistent business mentions, overpraising, or a promotional tone might mean they were incentivised.

  • The use of language: Fake reviews tend to be filled with grammatical errors and incorrect spelling. This is because some paid reviewers, often from lower-income backgrounds, might have a weaker command over English or resort to online translators. On the flip side, a review with overly correct English could be AI-generated content.

According to a Cornell University research, you should look out for the overuse of personal pronouns such as ‘I’, ‘me’, or several verbs, which could signify that a review is fake. While the language used to be a clearer indicator of manipulation, the use of AI nowadays is making it harder to distinguish a fake review from a real one.

  • Patterns in the product’s reviews: If one review doesn’t give it away, observing patterns across multiple reviews might. 

When many negative reviews flag a similar complaint, such as of a certain faulty part of the product, they likely hold credibility. 

Pay close attention to the dates of the reviews too – it could signal potential tampering if they’re all very close to each other. For example, if a product has been selling for over ten years but has most of its reviews within a single month, it might mean that the seller was attempting to boost the reviews.

You should also explore the ‘most recent’ and the ‘top reviews’ sections to get a comprehensive picture of the product’s quality. Marketplaces such as Amazon generally mark reviews based on actual purchases, so you can tell if the review is from a verified purchase or not. 

Plus, if you have the time, consider cross-checking the product’s reviews on other retail platforms to spot any inconsistencies. 

  • The reviewer: It’s quite easy to identify if a certain reviewer generally reviews in exchange for fees or rewards. Look into the reviewer’s history on the platform to see the range of products reviewed and the nature of the feedback. 

If they generally award a four or five-star rating to products, it’s most likely for an incentive. And when their reviewed products are very similar or absolutely unconnected, there’s a good chance you have spotted a paid reviewer.

  • Online tools: If you’re still unsure of the quality of reviews, online tools like FakeSpot might help to analyse, spot, and grade reviews depending on their reliability. By identifying fake reviews, these tools keep you better informed before you make any purchase decisions.

Plus, you must know your rights. Online shoppers have the right to return and refund any product up to 14 days after you receive it (and in some cases, longer). So, it’s best to know your return policy and rights before a purchase. 

And while none of these are sure-shot ways to know, they’re definitely giveaways in identifying a real review from a fake one. 

Lastly, if you do spot a fake review, it’s equally important to report it! Reporting manipulated reviews will protect other consumers and contribute towards a more transparent and honest online marketplace. Stay aware and save your money!

Photo Credits: Pexels

Richa Ved

Richa is a young Indian graduate from Warwick Business School, aspiring to find her niche in the media industry. She has a passion for writing and a keen interest in financial affairs. If you don’t find her working, she’s probably having a pizza (her favourite!) and a pint of beer somewhere.

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