16 Red Flags an Online Review Is Fake
Buyer beware: Over 30 percent of online reviews are phonies. Here’s how to not get suckered.
The positive reviews were all written in the same time span
Fake reviewers will often inundate a product with many reviews in a very short period of time, especially if they’re trying to generate buzz about a new product. A huge red flag is if all the five-star reviews were written within 24 hours of each other or if there are large clusters of reviews written close together with long periods of inactivity in between.
The review doesn’t verify the purchase
A surprising number of reviews are written by people who admit they haven’t tried the product, purchased it somewhere that can’t be verified, have a similar (but not the same) product, or have received it but haven’t used it yet. Why would anyone want to review something they haven’t used? Answer: Because they’re getting paid or otherwise incentivized. Some sites, like Amazon, will show “verified purchase” next to the review which can at least tell you if the person actually purchased that product.
The reviews are either perfect or horrible
Fake reviews are most likely to be either five stars or one star—love it or hate it. But real people often aren’t so generous or critical and will be more measured in their assessment. Make sure you read at least some of the reviews with two, three, and four stars to get a more accurate picture of what people really think of the product. Or take a break from searching and read some real product reviews that are actually pretty hilarious.
The review doesn’t mention the product by name
Real reviewers often won’t take the time to type out the entire name of a product in the review. But fraudsters will include not only the full name but also the company name, make, model and/or price—often more than once. This is an effort to get better search engine optimization. Be especially wary if it includes special characters like the ©, ®, and ™ symbols. Seriously, what real person takes the time to find those on a keyboard?
The reviewer changes their mind
It goes something like this: Someone swears they hated a product, but then changed their minds based on the sheer, overwhelming awesomeness of it. It’s one of the most convincing tactics used in reviews but unfortunately it’s also likely to be abused. While some of these Cinderella stories are true, ask yourself how likely it is someone would buy a product they were sure they were going to hate in the first place.
The review features tons of exclamation points
Another tip-off is the abuse of exclamation points. Real reviewers will use a variety of punctuation where fake reviews rely heavily on extreme praise peppered with exclamation points and emojis. You can avoid fake reviews, hackers, and scammers, if you follow the best ways to protect yourself online.