How to spot a fake review

The internet is flooded with fake reviews but they are often very difficult to spot.

Here are some tips on what to look out for to avoid wasting your time and money.

– Don’t just trust the overall star rating

It’s very easy and quick to post a fake star rating – or lots of them, which can quickly boost a product’s overall number of stars.

Although an item could have high overall reviews, there may be signs of incentivisation or other suspicious activity when you dig a little deeper.

– Check the wording

Reviews that are overly positive or negative without offering much detail can be suspicious. Poorly written, one-sided reviews with a lot of product detail should also ring alarm bells. Any that are written all in capitals and have odd formatting or poor punctuation should be promptly disregarded.

On the other hand, reviews that are balanced, relatively long and well written suggest a genuine buyer has taken time to contribute a good or bad experience with the product. These reviews are unlikely to plug competitor brands.

– Check the reviewer details

Fake reviewers are more likely to include few details about themselves or have much of a review history on show – and any that are visible are likely to be consistently 5 stars. Few “helpful” votes from other consumers is another indication of a fake operator.

Genuine reviews are likely to include the poster’s age, location and a review score history at somewhere in the middle of 1 and 5 stars.

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Consumers are warned that overly positive reviews can be suspicious (PA)

– Check for a range of review scores for the product

A high number of overwhelmingly positive reviews, especially all posted around the same date, could suggest the seller might have done a drive on Facebook groups or other platforms to drum up positive feedback through incentivisation, such as by offering a gift card or refund.

A Which? investigation into fake reviews found the five best-rated headphones on Amazon had almost 5,500 unverified reviews – those where Amazon does not know if the product has been purchased – with hundreds of five-star reviews arriving on a product in the same day.

– Read some of the bad reviews too

Do not just read positive reviews to justify a potential purchase. Poorer reviews can throw up longer term problems with the product, while any that express surprise that a product has had many positive reviews can be a warning sign of a flood of fake postings.

– Take extra care buying unknown brands

Which? has also warned that it has found some smaller brands attempting to take shortcuts to jump to the top of the listings with fake reviews.

It advises that if you do not recognise the brand, check online to see if it has a legitimate-looking website, with clear contact details so you can get in touch if anything goes wrong. You could even try calling or emailing the seller with a question, to see how quickly they respond.

– Look out for patterns

If a seller gets a bad review but this is followed by a string of good reviews, it is possible they are trying to bury the bad one and repair their score.

– Use an online tool

There are two online tools you can use to help you check for fake reviews. Fakespot and ReviewMeta both allow you to copy and paste a product’s URL into the site. They then analyse the reviews for telltale signs of fakery.

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