Rossendale Free Press

Warning call over fake online reviews


UK shoppers have bought an estimated 80 million items on the basis of positive online reviews only to be disappoint­ed when they arrive, National Trading Standards (NTS) has warned.

NTS said consumer trust in online reviews is fuelling a surge in criminals using them to sell poor quality goods and services.

More than half of online shoppers (56%) use online reviews as a deciding factor when buying a product or service and 67% are more likely to buy a product or service if it has a five-star rating, a survey for NTS suggests.

Fake online reviews are estimated to potentiall­y influence £23bn of UK consumer spending every year, according to Government figures.

However, NTS found just one in five check the timing and spacing of reviews online – if lots of similar reviews have been posted in a short space of time, they may have been submitted by the same person or group – while only 18% look at reviewers’ activity history, which can provide useful informatio­n about whether they are genuine.

Some 97% of shoppers using online reviews do not use browser plug-ins such as Fakespot and ReviewMeta to detect bogus reviews.

The Competitio­n and Markets Authority (CMA) is currently leading an investigat­ion into fake reviews.

NTS eCrime team national co-ordinator Mike Andrews said: “Bogus online reviews damage legitimate businesses and prop up those seeking to make a fast buck by selling shoddy goods.

“Many of those we surveyed said they felt deceived, conned and tricked after unwittingl­y falling for the fakes, often only realising the reviews were suspicious when it was too late.”

Here are some tips from NTS to avoid falling for fake online reviews:

Timing and spacing: Check for multiple similar reviews that have been uploaded within a few minutes or hours.

Reviewer’s history: Check the reviewer’s activity – if an account has been activated recently or has only reviewed a narrow range of products/ services, this could indicate suspicious activity.

Vague language: Legitimate reviews will often be personal and specific to the individual’s experience of using the item, whilst a fake is more likely to be vague, using generic words and phrases such as ‘amazing’, ‘awesome’, ‘buy this product’.

Can you contact them? If a reviewer is happy to be contacted with questions, and is responsive, it’s a good sign they’re legitimate.

Use a browser plug-in: They use artificial intelligen­ce to analyse reviews, identify suspicious activity and suggest better alternativ­es to consumers.

Look beyond the star rating: Whilst a star rating of 4.5 or 5 can be a good indicator of quality, do not go by this alone. Look at the reviews too and check them against these tips.

Anyone who fears they have been the victim of an online scam should report it to actionfrau­ or by calling 0300 123 2040.

For advice and informatio­n call the Citizens Advice scams action service on 0808 250 5050.

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Beware fake online reviews

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