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Tricks for spotting Fake Online Reviews

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David Silversmith
David Silversmith

Astroturfing, posing as real consumers to post positive reviews and commentary to Web sites and Internet message boards about their own companies, remains a thorn in the side of all Internet sites that post reviews.

Consumer-generated reviews of products and services are a great resource for Internet shoppers, folks who expect that those reviews be honest. However, once in a while someone decides they can manipulate what consumers see and believe they can get away with it. As you can see from this classic case where a Belkin employee posted ads on Amazon's Mechanical Turk making their abusive policies transparent to all!

The US based Direct Marketing Association promotes guidelines that say “Testimonials and endorsements should be used only if they are: Authorized by the person quoted; Genuine and related to the experience of the person giving them both at the time made and at the time of the promotion and; Not taken out of context so as to distort the endorser's opinion or experience with the product.”  But many people and businesses do not take this high road. 

The consumer blog Consumerist recently offered a a few tips for spotting fake online reviews - but there are many more ways to avoid being fooled.  You should take online reviews with a grain of salt when:

  • You spot a series of positive comments all left within a short period of time of each other - often a sure sign of either a robot or paid reviewers leaving the reviews.

  • The comments are full glowing praise with no downsides.  Even if you love a product or service, there is usually something you would like to see done better.  Another trick is to read some of the negative reviews first. These reviews will certainly mention the most obvious faults. Then read some of the best reviews, and if they fail to mention some of the faults of the bad reviews then you have another likelihood of a false commentary. 

  • Reviewers names are all variations of one another, i.e. voxyguy1234, voxyguy1593, voxyguy16687.

  • One sentence or one word reviews are mostly fake. And, even if they are not fake they really tell you very little.

  • Look for reviews written by folks who have written many reviews.  If the person has only written a few reviews on a very limited range of products, that's another sign to be cautious about.

  • Tthe reviewer mentions the complete product name several times.  Few real reviewers would bother to type " Sony ICF-C7IP Clock Radio for iPod and iPhone with Hidden Sliding Dock Tray."  However, a fake reviewer who wants to stuff the review with keywords for search would bother to type this all out. 

If you use these suggestions than you should become a master at spotting a shill reviewer.

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