What to know about fake reviews when shopping online
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If those $10 dollar wireless earbuds with 12,000 five-star reviews seem too good to be true, they probably are. One of the many risks of shopping online in 2019 is getting duped by deceptive or false reviews into buying an inferior product. Fake reviews have proliferated in every area of e-commerce, from electronics to clothes to books to children’s toys.
Review tracking website Fakespot, which analyzes reviews from popular e-commerce sites, estimates that a third of online reviews on sites like Walmart.com, Amazon.com, and Sephora.com are fake. WSJ reported that the three retailers have disputed Fakespot’s findings, but have also taken steps to improve the reliability of reviews on their platforms. The US Federal Trade Commission recently revealed that beauty brand Sunday Riley faked reviews of its own products on Sephora’s website for more than two years. Just this week, online gaming service Steam deleted nearly 3,000 glitchy, low-quality games from its storefront, many of which lured buyers with fake reviews.
To make things trickier for prospective buyers, many of these fake reviews are written not by bots, but actual humans. Earlier this month, Buzzfeed profiled a woman who spent over $15,000 on products on Amazon throughout 2019, much of which was in exchange for writing five-star reviews.
Tommy Noonan, the creator of ReviewMeta, a site that analyzes fake reviews on Amazon, noticed a spike in fake reviews on the e-commerce giant in the early months of 2019. Of the 1.9 million unverified reviews written in March 2019, nearly 99.6% were five-star reviews. Compared to 2017 and 2018, that showed a marked spike in both the overall number of unverified reviews, as well as the number of five-star reviews. In a blog post, Noonan noted that the items in question seemed to be cheap, off-brand electronics like headphones and chargers. Reviews were also created in the span of a few days. Amazon has since removed most of the fake reviews identified by Noonan.
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December 2, 2019 at 6:30 PM #233079N2DocParticipant
- Total Posts: 7,230
For some product types, nearly all the reviews are fake. Bad Grammar, bad spelling, cookie-cutter wording, etc. It has made that whole feature pretty useless in some areas (particularly cheap appliances/electronics).
December 2, 2019 at 7:50 PM #233104Flying SquirrelParticipant
- Total Posts: 546
I only read the one-star reviews, looking for commonalities and seeing if I think the worst that people have experienced is worth the risk. I also look at the bar graph; 4% or more negative usually keeps the money in the wallet.
December 2, 2019 at 8:53 PM #233119NV WinoModerator
- Total Posts: 4,963
I, like Flying Squirrel, read the bad reviews. You can get much more accurate information from them.
December 2, 2019 at 8:55 PM #233121GryneosParticipant
- Total Posts: 861
If I’m spending a lot on a product, I usually look up professional review sites. You get better details on the product that way.
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