How to Spot Fake Reviews on Amazon
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Don’t trust that 5-star review or rating on Amazon to make up your mind about a product. There’s a good chance it’s a fake (i.e. a commissioned review by the seller). The only way to find a true opinion is to learn how to spot these fakes.

Amazon has faced this problem for some time now. The online retail giant has even filed a few lawsuits against companies that provide these fake review services. But it’s an uphill battle, and one that Amazon probably won’t win. There is an entire world of scammers trying to manipulate Amazon’s reviews and ratings 4 Ways Online Reviews Are Being Manipulated By Manufacturers 4 Ways Online Reviews Are Being Manipulated By Manufacturers Manufacturers and companies actually manipulate reviews in a variety of ways right here on the Internet. It's all about good press, of course. However, some ways are sketchier than others as you'll soon be able... Read More . It’s almost impossible to stay a step ahead of them.

The onus then is on you, the buyer. You’re the one who needs to be able to spot and disregard biased write-ups. It’s easier said than done, but there are a few ways to get better at it.

The Big Tell-Tale Signs

There are a few tell-tale signs to indicate a fake review. Some people who wrote these fake reviews for a living have disclosed some secrets. And then there are researchers who found clues.

amazon fake reviews ratings tell-tale signs

  • Similar keywords in multiple reviews: Companies brief these fake-review-writers with a short product description and what they want to hear. This comes with some keywords or phrases that the manufacturer wants. If many reviews repeat such phrases, you know what to discount.
  • Reviews that are too positive without being specific: Nothing is perfect, but some reviews talk up a product with big adjectives and action words. Don’t trust these.
  • Lots of reviews in a short time frame: If an item has a large number of reviews in the space of a few days, that’s a deal-breaker.

As the fake-out game evolves, reviewers change strategies. For example, several of the signs to spot a fake The Scourge Of The Web: Fake Reviews & How To Spot Them The Scourge Of The Web: Fake Reviews & How To Spot Them "User reviews" are actually a pretty recent phenomenon. Before the prevalence of the Internet, user reviews were called testimonials, and you’d only see them on TV commercials and product pages. Nowadays, anyone can write anything... Read More are no longer used, like extreme emotions or personal anecdotes.

Use Fakespot or ReviewMeta

Two apps do a good job of flagging fake reviews. ReviewMeta is the older of the two, while Fakespot uses a few new techniques How to Know If You Can Trust an Amazon Product's Reviews How to Know If You Can Trust an Amazon Product's Reviews Amazon product reviews are hit or miss. Sometimes they're helpful, sometimes they're fake. Here's a tool you can use to check the integrity of a given product's reviews. Read More . But largely, both work well to get rid of the obvious fakes.

Add the link of the Amazon product in the space on ReviewMeta or Fakespot. The smart algorithms will analyze all the reviews, and tell you which ones you can trust and which one you can’t.

Both ReviewMeta and Fakespot also have browser extensions to reduce clicks. Choose whichever app seems better to you. Personally, I prefer ReviewMeta as the app to uncover what’s hiding on Amazon What Amazon Hides: 5 Apps to Show Deals and Discounts to Save Money What Amazon Hides: 5 Apps to Show Deals and Discounts to Save Money Did you know that there are plenty of deals and discounts that Amazon doesn't easily disclose? Here's how to find them all with five unique tools. Read More .

Ratings Are Usually Unreliable: Look for 3-Stars

In most cases, you can safely ignore a product’s rating altogether. Ratings are far too subjective and don’t mean anything. Most people can’t even agree on what “3/5 stars” means, so forget about them.

amazon fake reviews ratings skewed ratings

The site Best Reviews analyzed 360,000 user ratings over 488 products and found the above distribution. Over 66 percent of user ratings are ranked five stars. No one believes that there are so many 5-star consumer products on Amazon, right? Plus, a rating is the least-effort way for a company to inflate their numbers.

But there is one way these customer ratings can be useful. Go to the 3-star ratings and read the reviews there. Those will usually tell you both the pros and cons of the item, giving you a fairer picture.

It should go without saying, but make sure the item has enough reviews for it to matter. You can use the Amazon Sort extension to filter by number of reviews How to Sort Amazon Search Results by Number of Reviews How to Sort Amazon Search Results by Number of Reviews By default, you can only sort Amazon results by number of reviews when shopping for books. With this extension, you can bring that feature across all categories! Read More , so you aren’t wasting time on a product with very few reviews.

Download: Amazon Sort for Chrome (Free)

Stop Trusting “Verified Purchases” Blindly

When a customer buys an item and writes a review about it, Amazon adds a “Verified Purchase” tag to that. It seems more authentic, and it was one of the preferred ways to tell fakes from honest reviews. But not anymore…

amazon fake reviews ratings verified purchase

Those companies that sell fake reviews in bulk have gotten smarter. The new deals include a commission from the manufacturer to actually buy the products so that the fake review gets a “Verified Purchase” tag. Which means you can’t blindly trust such reviews, you still need to analyze it.

In some ways, Amazon itself is to blame for this. It hasn’t helped this cause with initiatives like the Amazon Vine Reviewer program How to Become an Amazon Vine Reviewer & Get Free Stuff How to Become an Amazon Vine Reviewer & Get Free Stuff An Amazon program that's been around since 2007 might make you think twice about the power of good reviews. It's also an opportunity to get picked up for the program. Find out more here. Read More . To increase reviews, Amazon pays people to buy the product or offers extreme discounts.

As the Best Reviews study above also noted, such paid reviews overwhelmingly end up positive. This isn’t about dishonesty either. But when someone isn’t spending their own money, they are less likely to be more critical and expect the best value.

Quiz: Can You Spot the Fake Reviews?

With so much learning at hand, let’s see if you can spot the fake review from the real one. Researcher Bing Liu created a small quiz of three reviews. Which do you think are real and which are fake? Take Bing Liu’s Quiz.

How do you spot a fake review from a real one? Do you have any tricks or tips that might help distinguish them easily?

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  1. K Braswell
    October 3, 2017 at 7:49 am

    While what you say in this article is true for the most part, you're throwing a wet blanket over the whole rating and review process that isn't quite true. Not all reviews with 5 stars and/or reviews with repetitive words (especially in the heading) are fake. I, for one, write reviews for products I've purchased and tell it like it is good or bad. And when writing these I get tired of being 'creative' in what I say and just jot down what sticks out about a product. Trying to get original for headings is a pain. So many of which end up saying the same thing, especially for basic products that are either as they say they are or not. Exp. "Good product", "great item", or "not for me". So, I'm just saying that like product reviews, articles about reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. And by the way, I tend to look for and read reviews that are anything but 5 stars.

  2. NoMoreFake
    September 30, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    it's pretty sickening that I have to buy something over and over to see if it's actually any good. Amazon totally has the means to stop this but they don't. So sick of seeing the same worded 5 star reviews in every category. Glad you pointed this out for others.

    And everyone else stop bringing politics into anything that has the word "fake" in it. Geez.

    • dragonmouth
      October 5, 2017 at 11:27 pm

      "Amazon totally has the means to stop this but they don't."
      Pray tell, how can they accomplish that? If you know how then maybe you should suggest it to them. The only sure way of stopping "review abuse" is to stop all reviews.

  3. dragonmouth
    September 28, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    In this instance I must agree with Howard A Pearce.

    Ever since the Trump-Hillary campaign there has been a morbid fascination with the "fakeness" of things. If we disagree with it, we declare it to be FAKE. AFAIAC, the current concern about "fakeness" is tempest in a teapot. 'Fake news', 'fake opinions', 'fake reviews' have existed for thousands of years.

    "The online retail giant has even filed a few lawsuits against companies that provide these fake review services."
    As if Amazon has never stuffed the ballot box in favor of its products.

    "The smart algorithms will analyze all the reviews, and tell you which ones you can trust and which one you can’t."
    Really? The algorithms are not created by impartial machines. They are created by opinionated humans. When examined closely, the algorithms will show bias.

    "How to Spot Fake Reviews on Amazon"
    Just by the fact that they are posted on Amazon. :-)

  4. Tomas
    September 27, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    I wrote an honest review for a book that was total garbage a few years ago. It was a subject that I have a lot of experience in so I could refute the author's claims. About 24hrs later I was harassed by several people via amazon and the book suddenly had hundereds of 5 star reviews. The people the author/publisher hired were ruthless and and harassed me for several weeks. It was unreal. Totally opened my eyes to the world of fake reviews.

  5. Howard A Pearce
    September 27, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    FAKE is a concept people themselves should be allowed to determine.
    But all to often sites,media organization are making that determination for us then imposing their views on what their customer can read or not.

    Reviews that want to opine what are fake are fine, but having media/news "authorities" or government "authorities" etc. determine for us what is fake is definitely the wrong way to go.

    For most things, everyone uses a source that they trust as not fake to determine for them what is !