Top tips for spotting a fake review

Do you check out reviews when you’re shopping online?

It’s important not to take glowing reviews at face value and the same goes for negative feedback. Check out these top tips from consumer champions Which?

Read the reviews thoroughly. Don’t go by the overall score to make an impulse purchase. Read through the reviews and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. Does the product have a high percentage of five-star reviews? Consider how likely it is that so many people found the product to be ‘perfect’.

Check the dates. If a lot of the reviews were posted at the same time, the seller might have used several methods to drum up positive feedback. A Which? investigation into fake reviews found the five best-rated headphones had almost 5,500 unverified reviews – those where Amazon doesn’t know if the product has been purchased. Obtain a more balanced view by checking four, three and two star reviews.

Take extra care buying unknown brands. If you don’t recognise a brand, check online to see if it has a legitimate looking website with clear contact details. You could even try calling or emailing the seller with a question, to see how quickly they respond. 

Exercise your judgment depending on the product. For example, it’s unlikely one person would have needed to buy five battery packs in a short space of time and reviewed them all positively. On the other side of the coin, someone looking to become a vegetarian is more likely to have bought and reviewed five vegetarian cookbooks, giving the seller a variety of feedback and ratings.

Check out what else reviewers bought. You can almost always check to see what other reviews someone has left on products or services by clicking on their account. This should help you judge whether the review is real. If they’ve bought many very similar items or a lot of totally unconnected items and all the ratings are positive, the reviewer might be getting products for free in exchange for a good review.

Read the less positive reviews. Some people might complain about the product failing over time, have a negative opinion about the look of the product or even grumble about issues with delivery or customer service – problems that might not apply to everyone. On the other hand, consistent criticism of quality, a specific aspect of functionality or surprise that so many reviews are so positive could be viewed as a warning sign.

Look for verified purchases. While they can be influenced by sellers, verified reviews are ones the marketplace can confirm were bought through their site. Non-verified reviews mean the marketplace couldn’t confirm where they bought that product or what price they paid for it. On most marketplaces, ‘verified purchase’ or something similar will appear next to the reviewer’s name.

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