13 THINGS SAVVY SHOPPERS LOOK FOR IN ONLINE REVIEWS
Can’t tell real from phony? Look for these telltale signs.
IF YOU RELY ON ONLINE REVIEWS to decide which products to buy, beware: nearly 30 per cent of them are phony, planted by companies to boost their sales or tank their competitors’ rankings. To avoid getting scammed, look for these warning signs. 1
A SKETCHY REVIEWER PROFILE On most sites, you can see a reviewer’s past reviews by clicking on the username. Be wary if someone has only one review, reviews only one type of product (say, diet pills), leaves only very
positive reviews, or reviews products from only one company. 2
SIGNS OF COMPENSATION One clear clue a reviewer got paid is that his or her bio page shows many similar reviews of comparable
products. Some even admit getting a gift card or receiving the product for free in return for the review. 3 TOO MUCH DETAIL Fake reviews, especially for health products, often spout a long list of claims, ‘facts’ or marketing-speak. 4 TOO LITTLE DETAIL On the flip side, bulk fake reviews rely on generalities so they can be copied to different products. Real reviewers are more likely to use concrete words like ‘bathroom,’ ‘check-in’ or ‘price’ (for a hotel), while fake reviewers write about things that set the scene, such as ‘vacation’ or ‘business trip’. 5 FIRST-PERSON PRONOUNS According to a study from Cornell University, fake reviews are often peppered with I or my to make them seem more personal. 6 ALTERNATIVE PRODUCT PLACEMENT To spot fakes written by competitors, watch for negative reviews that include high praise for a specific alternative. 7 ONE-STAR AND FIVE-STAR REVIEWS Read reviews in the middle. Fake reviewers often love a product or hate it, but real people will often be more measured. 8 SUPER SHORT REVIEWS Paid shills aim to get a product’s overall grade as high as possible as quickly as possible, so they’ll hit the five-star button and type something quick like ‘Great service!’ 9 REVIEW CLUSTERS Fake reviewers often inundate a new product with reviews to generate buzz. A huge red flag is if all the five-star reviews were written within 24 hours or if there are clusters of reviews between periods of inactivity. 10 WORD REPETITION To make it easier for people to review their products, companies often provide them text they can cut and paste, so look out for similar wording. 11 ENTIRE BRAND NAMES Real reviewers won’t bother to type out the entire name of a product. But fraudsters will include the company name, make and model for better search engine optimisation. 12 A CHANGE IN ATTITUDE Fake reviewers swear they came in ready to hate a product but changed their minds based on its sheer awesomeness. But how likely is it that someone would buy a product they thought they would hate? 13 TOO! MANY! EXCLAMATION! MARKS!!! Real reviewers use a variety of punctuation, whereas fake reviews tend to rely heavily on exclamation marks and emojis.