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Amazon flooded with ‘fake’ reviews: tips to spot one

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16/04/2019
Amazon’s website is flooded with ‘fake’ five star-reviews for products from unknown brands, an investigation by Which? claims.

The consumer group said top-rated items including headphones, dash cams, fitness trackers and smart watches are dominated by unfamiliar names.

In many cases, these items had thousands of unverified reviews meaning there is no evidence the reviewer had bought or used the product, Which? said.

Many also had a suspiciously high number of five-star ratings that had been put onto Amazon’s review pages in a short space of time.

Amazon said it uses investigation teams and automated technology to spot fake reviews.

However, when Which? searched for headphones, all the products on the first page of results were from unknown brands and almost nine in 10 (87%) of more than 12,000 reviews for these products were from unverified purchasers.

Seven out of 10 (71%) of the headphones had “suspiciously” perfect five-star customer ratings – and some included reviews for unrelated products such as soap dispensers.

One set of headphones, by unknown brand Celebrat, had 439 reviews. All were five-star, all unverified, and all arrived on the same day.

Which? showed its findings to ReviewMeta, a company which analyses the authenticity of online reviews.

ReviewMeta said it believed every five star unverified review of the top 10 pairs of headphones when sorted by average customer review was fake.

Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “Our research suggests that Amazon is losing the battle against fake reviews – with shoppers bombarded by dubious comments aimed at artificially boosting products from unknown brands.

“Amazon must do more to purge its websites of unreliable and fake reviews if it is to maintain the trust of its millions of customers.”

How to spot a fake review

Take extra care shopping for brands you don’t know

Scrutinise customer reviews even more carefully if you’re looking to buy a brand you don’t recognise as Which? research indicates they are significantly more likely to be affected by fake reviews.

Be suspicious of large numbers of reviews

If you see hundreds or even thousands of reviews – be suspicious, especially if they are largely positive.

Look for repetition

If you see the same review titles, repetitive phrases or even the same reviewer name appear more than once on a product, it’s very likely that it has been targeted by fake reviews.

Filter to check for unverified versus verified reviews

Reviews marked as ‘verified’ are those that Amazon can confirm were purchased at its website. Unverified reviews do not undergo any such checks. Therefore, unverified reviews are far easier to ‘fake’ – in that they could be written by someone who has had no experience at all with the product.

Look at the dates

If large numbers of reviews were posted on the same day, or in a short period of time, it’s very likely that they are fake  – especially if they are also unverified.

Check seller profiles

Things you might be wary of are foreign seller locations, strange business names, a lack of contact details, and of course, negative reviews of the seller. Check out the seller profile page before you buy to see if anything seems out of place.

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