How to spot fake online reviews

Posted at 10:46 PM, Nov 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-30 00:46:16-05

If you are doing your Christmas shopping on-line, you may be pouring over reviews to decide what to buy.

But e-commerce sites, such as Amazon, have been struggling to deal with a growing number of fraudulent reviews, that may raise a company's rating but don't represent the product they are selling.

When Tyler Moffitt checks off his Christmas list, he reads the reviews.

"Four-and-a-half stars, 500 reviews, let's take a look at that," he said, clicking on a TV mount listed on Amazon. "This review says, 'Very easy to mount.' I like that."

But Moffitt, a senior threat analyst for Broomfield-based cyber security company Webroot, said he learned how to spot fake reviews the hard way, after he bought a pair of goggles.

"They had great ratings, and I was like, 'OK, I'm excited,' and it wasn't even a second, third use and they fogged up," said Moffitt. "They were supposed to be anti-fog. It was a real big bummer"

Moffitt said the company offered to send him a new pair, if he would give them a five-star rating.

"That's when I realized why they had such good reviews," he said.

Now, he always checks a product on Fakespot, a site that analyzes reviews on Amazon and Yelp, examining the language, timing and reviewer history.

"What we intended it for was always a double check," said Ming Ool, the Chief Strategy Officer for Fakespot. "So you put all that together and it sort of spits out a grade to tell you whether the review is authentic or not."

The reviews for the disappointing goggles Moffitt bought were given an "F" rating on Fakespot.

Moffitt also recommends changing the Amazon customer review filter from the default to the most recent and only verified buyers.

"You have to start reviewing the reviewers," said Moffitt.

Other red flags to watch for in fake reviews: 

  • Really vague or overly positive language
  • A large number of reviews posted at approximately the same time frame
  • All Five-Star reviews



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