11 Tips to Avoid Fake Reviews

Photo (cc) by .reid.

People often look at product reviews when deciding whether to make a purchase or choosing between brands. It’s not that they necessarily care what a stranger thinks. Rather, a batch of reviews can offer an idea of common problems or complaints and sometimes suggest better alternatives.

The problem is fake reviews. Yes, there are people that actually spend time doing that. They often get paid to do it, either by the company they work for – often as PR interns – or through sites like Mechanical Turk, where anyone can be paid trivial sums (as little as 20 cents) to write product reviews and do other menial tasks by companies that don’t want to actually hire someone to do them.

Even big-name companies do this. Technology company Belkin was caught for fake reviews in 2009. Another company called DeLonghi was spotted with fakes after that. And here’s another story from last year about a court settlement over fake reviews where PR firm Reverb Communications got nailed – and received a slap on the wrist for it.

What can you do to avoid being conned by fake reviews? Here are some ideas:

  1. Ignore reviews that focus on features rather than reliability, sturdy construction, and value. They’ll often sound like a list off the side of the product box itself: “I love this thing! It has 12 gizmos, over 40 different customizable settings, unique aerodynamic design with swivel head, and comes in over 15 colors!” Obviously fake.
  2. Be skeptical of totally positive reviews. While there are hardcore fans of certain products, most of us don’t have an incentive to write glowing reviews just because a product does what we expected (and paid for) it to do. Rather, people usually write reviews to vent their frustration against a company, warn people against problems, or assess pros and cons.
  3. Ignore reviews full of empty, meaningless adjectives and buzzwords. Saying a product is “great” or “excellent” or “amazing” means nothing on its own, even if it’s in all caps and accompanied by a dozen exclamation marks. They should explain why they think it’s great. This is the most common kind of fake review, because it takes almost no time or effort to write.
  4. Watch out for super-negative reviews too. In addition to praising their own products, fakers will also knock competitors’ stuff. Simple claims of “this doesn’t work,” “this sucks,” or “beware!!!!” are just as empty as the adjectives above.
  5. Skip over flowery language. Reviews that sound like bad novels are often written fake reviewers. Some people do tell “stories” – stuff like, “Well, I bought this for my wife’s birthday and when we opened it we found out it sucked,” is usually OK as long as it’s to the point and sounds contextual or humanizing, rather than robotic.
  6. Other stories to watch out for: illogical and improbable ones. For example, reviews that say they thought the product looked terrible but they bought it anyway and, it turns out, they loved it. Would you buy something you were biased against from the start?
  7. If a review sounds suspicious, see if the person has done other reviews. If they seem to always give completely negative or positive reviews, or say the same thing over and over, don’t trust ’em. If a name or phrase sounds suspicious, paste it into Google and see if it’s a cookie-cutter review.
  8. Be skeptical of several reviews posted around the same time, within a few hours or a day of each other – they were probably posted by a group, or told to post by the same source. One exception: If the reviews were posted near the product release date, this is more likely to actually happen.
  9. Check the names of reviewers on similar products. The same reviewers will sometimes review several different products from the same brand or of the same kind – unless they identify themselves as a professional reviewer or explain why they buy so many different versions of the same thing, they’re probably bogus. Sometimes you’ll see lots of variations of the same username too: fakers.
  10. Watch out for reviews that repeat the product name over and over, especially if it has a long title like the “Smith and Johnson Double Plus Platinum Thinger WD-2000,” which real users will probably just call “the Thinger”. Repetition can indicate a lame attempt to improve search engine results.
  11. Reviews that go off-topic and provide a link. These aren’t review-fakers, they’re another type of lowlife whose goal is to hijack web traffic.

So in sum: Look for ratings a couple notches below perfect, with some details that don’t sound like copy-paste work. Pay attention to reviewer names and their history, and Google anything suspicious. Follow that advice, and you have a good idea who to trust.

For more advice on people out to mislead you, check out The 10 Golden Rules to Scam Prevention.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

13 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less
13 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less

Before shelling out for more expensive options, check out this diverse list.

10 Colleges That Offer Free Tuition for Seniors
10 Colleges That Offer Free Tuition for Seniors

These schools let retirement-age students study, tuition-free, while earning college credit.

12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income
12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income

These simple ways of earning income without a lot of active, ongoing effort can stretch your retirement dollars.

5 Reasons You Should Work for as Long as You Live
5 Reasons You Should Work for as Long as You Live

These benefits might make you think twice about retirement.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make
7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make

Sometimes a big-ticket purchase is nothing more than a big waste of money.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.