Rights & Money

How to Spot Fake Reviews Online

Don’t get duped by deceptive product reviews

By Matt Smith


Even if you shop online rarely (or never), reading product reviews on e-commerce sites can help you make informed decisions about in-store purchases. But how much can you rely on anonymous online opinions?

Like many things on the Internet, product reviews are best taken with a grain of salt. Just as some of the goods for sale on sites like Amazon are counterfeit , so are some of the reviews you find online—shady businesses pay people to buy their products and post fake reviews.

Here are some signs to watch for when you’re trying to decide whether a review is to be trusted.

Similar Wording
One of the most obvious signs of fake reviews is a number of reviewers all using the same or similar phrases. It’s possible that the vendor has hired them to emphasize certain features of the product. For the same reason, you should be wary if you see multiple reviewers posting extremely similar photos of the product.

A Short Timeframe
Another thing to check is the dates of the reviews. If you’re seeing multiple five-star ratings reviews posted within the same timeframe, be suspicious.

No Company Website
That something is listed on a major e-commerce website doesn’t mean that the product or company is legitimate. Many companies, such as BestBuy, Amazon, and Walmart, allow third-party vendors to sell products through their platform. These goods are advertised as “shipped and sold by” the third-party vendor. If that’s the case, always search for the manufacturer’s website to make sure that the company exists. If you can’t find one, it’s best to stay away.

Luckily, you don’t have to reply on your intuition only in the fight against fake reviews. Websites such as Fakespot and ReviewMeta will scan through product reviews for you, using specialized artificial intelligence. ReviewMeta is limited to checking reviews of products on Amazon, but Fakespot will help you sift through reviews of hotels and restaurants, as well. You’ll get a detailed report, including an “adjusted” review score, and an explanation of why some of the reviews may be false.

Photo: iStock/NicoElNino.