Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Contents - CHAR­LOTTE HIL­TON AN­DER­SEN

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.

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