Better Business Bytes: How can you spot a fake customer review?

The power of customer reviews is undeniable. According to a BrightLocal Survey, more than three out of four consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

On the flipside, how trustworthy can online reviews be when even major platforms are struggling to keep up with fake reviews? A huge amount of energy, time, and resources are currently being poured into publishing misleading reviews intended to boost sales. Cybersecurity website Safety Detectives recently discovered a fake review operation that involved more than 200,000 people.

Previously, operation rings primarily used bots to generate mass amounts of fake reviews because it was more convenient. For consumers, because AI bots weren’t the best at grammar, the fraudulent reviews they produced were easier to spot. Software for catching fake reviews has also since been developed, forcing operation rings to become more sophisticated.

Operation rings now recruit real live people to write statements praising particular products, and then provide specific criteria they must follow to avoid detection, making fake reviews much more difficult to spot.

Better Business Bureau, named as the site consumers trust the most in the same BrightLocal survey, compiled tips on how to spot a fake review and what signs to look for in a high-quality, legitimate review.

  • Look for well-balanced reviews. Fake, misleading reviews tend to be extreme. They are over-the-top snippets that read more like a sales pitch by listing product features. A genuine review will often detail what they liked most about the product without using marketing jargon and provide feedback on what would’ve made their experience better. 3/5-star reviews tend to be written by real people.
  • Click on reviewers’ profiles. Fake review operations tend to recruit people to purchase products in exchange for five-star positive remarks. Is the reviewer’s name too generic? Is the profile picture stolen (a reverse image search can help with that)? Does the reviewer have a reliable history with a wide range of experiences, or are they all perfect reviews?
  • Repetitive phrasing. Fake review operations will provide specific phrases and features they want their recruits to mention. If you see similar phrasing and the exact same features suspiciously mentioned repeatedly, that may be a group of fake reviewers.
  • Look for verified purchases. Verified purchases are badges posted alongside the review to confirm there was an actual transaction. While verified purchases can be forged if the reviewer was later reimbursed after “purchasing” the product, it’s still an additional layer of legitimacy. Not all verified purchases are fake.
  • Look for reviews on multiple websites. If you’re unsure whether or not to purchase a product, search for it on other website platforms. YouTube videos are a great way to hear in-depth reviews, especially since vloggers must disclose whether it’s a sponsored promotion to meet FTC guidelines. Cross-referencing will give you a clearer idea of how the business is performing across the board.