How to spot fake Amazon reviews
Image: Amazon

Online shopping has long been a battle of making sure that whatever you are buying won’t burst into flames the moment you unwrap it. There’s always that minor anxiety attack when you punch in your card number. That faint voice rattling in the back of your skull after purchasing that 32” TCL that wonders: “Am I messing up right now?”

Online shopping has been around for eons, though. And most of us have become hardened, savvy consumers, experts at selecting the perfect wares without headache.

Most of this just boils down to experience. But along with that, we have also ceded power to the masses. We have become reliant on customer reviews to tell us if a product is trash or worth the money. But because this is the internet and everything has to be gamed and everyone needs their quick buck, fake reviews have become a scourge of online retailers, especially Amazon.

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Fake Reviews Are Everywhere and Probably Won’t Stop

If you’ve breathed on a keyboard in your life, you know that fake reviews are nothing new. And you likely know that user reviews are notoriously easy to subvert. Sites like TripAdvisor, Amazon, and Yelp are consistently gamed for different ends. Sometimes it may be a company hiring third-party freelancers and reviewers to boost star ratings on products. Other times, users fake reviews just to see the world burn.

Fake reviews have gotten so out of hand that back in February, the FTC made headlines when it prosecuted fake reviews on Amazon for the first time ever. The company, in that case, hired a third-party company (cleverly titled amazonverifiedreviews.com) to boost reviews of their weight-loss supplement.

Besides the FTC singling out Cure Encapsulations for exaggerating the benefits of their magic weight-loss pill, Amazon itself has taken a few measures to battle fake reviews. The company banned incentivized reviews from the site and they have also gone to court to remove some fake reviews.

Despite best efforts, fake reviews persist simply because of the sheer volume of products featured on Amazon.

So, how can you, the humble customer, make sure you are shielding yourself from fake reviews?

Fakespot alerts consumers to fake reviews on Amazon and other sites
Image: Fakespot

Fake Review Tools Can Help

While you won’t be able to eradicate fake reviews from your shopping experience completely, a few sites can help level the playing field. For instance, Fakespot is an engine that analyzes reviews from Steam, Amazon, Yelp, Best Buy, Walmart, and Sephora.

You simply copy and paste the product URL you are looking at into Fakespot and the engine analyzes the reviews. It looks at misspelled words, purchasing patterns, repetitive words, and other factors. Fakespot then assigns a letter grade based on how many of the reviews are “unreliable.”

ReviewMeta on the other hand only analyzes products listed on Amazon. You copy and paste the product URL into the engine and instead of assigning a letter score, it adjusts the rating of the product to give you the accurate rating without the fake reviews.

They are both useful tools but both lead to different conclusions. While Fakespot can alert you to fake reviews, it doesn’t necessarily mean a product is bad. The letter grade isn’t for the product, just the pool of reviews on that product. ReviewMeta may get slightly closer to an accurate view of any given product, cutting out the fake and leaving only real reviews.

Tools like Fakespot and ReviewMeta are no doubt helpful in spotting fake reviews. But the story remains the same: Do your research when purchasing online. And try your best to buy the best product for your needs.

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