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Fake Amazon Reviews: They’re Ruining The Amazon Review System!
Advertisers and product manufacturers know that a positive Amazon review can carry a lot of weight with consumers, and that’s why some unscrupulous types have actually started paying for positive Amazon reviews. Whether on Craigslist, online job boards, or maybe even right in your own email inbox, it’s not hard to find solicitations for people who are willing to write fake, 5-star product reviews.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to spot fake reviews. I’ve seen some online articles that explain how to look for clues in the body of the review itself, by analyzing the use of over-the-top adjectives and such, but who has time for that? Not me. Besides, the companies that hire out for fake reviews will often supply their required review text to the reviewer, and those companies already know how to write a legitimate-sounding review.
So today I’m going to share my at-a-glance, one-click method for distinguishing genuine reviews from the fakes.
Here’s What To Look At, And For
Every Amazon review will include the reviewer’s username and a link to “See all my reviews”, at the minimum. There may also be additional details about the reviewer, as shown below. See the numbers corresponding to each arrow beneath the image (click or tap on the image to view an enlarged version in a new tab or window) for details on which items matter.
1. Helpful Votes – ignore this. There are plenty of genuine Amazon reviewers who think they own the place and automatically downvote (mark as ‘not helpful’) the reviews and comments of anyone who disagrees with their reviews. Because of this, the “helpful” vote count is meaningless.
2. Verified Purchase Indicator – ignore this. The “verified purchase” label will be there if the reviewer actually purchased the item direct from Amazon before writing the review. You might think the presence of this label provides some proof that the review is valid—after all, the reviewer actually bought the item, they didn’t get it for free in exchange for a review, right? Not necessarily. People who hire out for fake reviews have figured out that the “verified purchase” label makes any review look more legitimate so they’ve simply started sending Amazon purchase credits to the people they hire to write fake reviews. Alternatively, they may reimburse the reviewer for the purchase on top of the fake review fee.
3. Top Reviewer / Hall of Fame Reviewer – if either title is there, the review is NOT fake. These titles are given by Amazon and if either one of them is there, you can be sure the review is totally legitimate. You have to write a LOT of reviews and get a LOT of helpful votes to earn one of these designations, so no faker is going to make the cut.
4. Real Name – ignore this. This label is also provided by Amazon, only when the reviewer’s username is the same as his or her real name that’s on file with Amazon for making purchases. You might think this automatically conveys some level of trustworthiness, because no Amazon customer would risk having his or her Amazon account revoked on account of violating Amazon’s rules against fake reviews. But since it would be very difficult for Amazon to prove a given review is fake there’s actually little risk for fake reviewers who post fake reviews under their real names.
5. See all my reviews – PAYDIRT! This is the single most important thing to check when you suspect a review may be fake. Click through to see more details about the reviewer and read all reviews written by him or her. If he or she is a scammer, it’ll be pretty obvious right away. Note that while you may not be able to tell for an absolute certainty if a given review is real or fake (if Amazon can’t prove it, how could anyone else?), any of the following red flags is reason enough for me to totally disregard a review.
If the review you clicked through on is a 5-starrer and it’s the only review ever written by this person, that’s suspicious.
If there are numerous reviews but they’re all 5-starrers, that’s suspicious.
If there are numerous reviews that are all 5-starrers and they’re all for the same type of product (e.g., apps), that’s also suspicious.
If there are numerous reviews that are all 5-starrers and they’re all for products from the same manufacturer or developer, that’s VERY suspicious.
Important caveat: it’s not unusual for people to receive free items to use and then review honestly, and the fact that they received the item for free doesn’t automatically make their review suspicious. After all, respected book and movie reviewers have been getting free books and movie tickets for decades. However, recent changes to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules require any reviewer who has received the reviewed item for free to disclose that fact in the review. You may find these disclosures in reviews from time to time, but they don’t mean the review is fake.
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