The proliferation of user reviews is an Internet phenomenon. Before the advent of the modern web, testimonials were the only way to hear what “normal people” thought about a product. Now, anyone can think of software, products, and services.
However, not all reviews are real. Fake online reviews are more common than you think, and they can mislead you into buying a product you wouldn’t have thought of. Let’s take a look at some common red flags for fake comments so you can avoid being scammed.
1. Strong negative or positive feelings
A 100% positive or negative review is a sign that the reviewer’s intentions weren’t real.
An overwhelmingly positive review indicates that the person has blind loyalty to the brand, has been paid or otherwise benefited from the review. In a regular review, people usually list some negatives, even if their overall outlook is positive. Saying it’s “amazing” without reason is not helpful.
Likewise, a completely negative review doesn’t do you much help either. People who flaunt a product may try to damage the company’s reputation because they had a bad experience with it. Someone who really wants to give a one-star rating will focus on the specific issues you had with him rather than writing exhaustive angry comments.
2. Stories and personal details
Reviews that contain clichés like “This product changed my life!” They are often fake. Most people don’t feel that strongly about random products online, so scammers may feel the need to block their review when it’s not genuine.
A similar issue comes from reviews in the form of a story, such as “I was feeling down after my dog died, then I found this product and can’t believe how great it is!” Personal storytelling tightens your emotions, making it more likely that you will buy something more than you might otherwise be. Good reviews don’t focus on references. They are about the product.
Another common review trend, especially for mobile apps, is “I never write reviews, but…” This is not necessarily a sign of a fake review, but treat such examples with skepticism. It could be a sign that something other than genuine interest paid the author to write the review.
3. Excellent or poor grammar
You will read the real review as if it was written by an ordinary person. It may contain some minor grammatical errors, but it should be clear without seeming overly formal. A possible sign of fake reviews is when the quality of the writing is extreme.
A perfectly polished review is a sign that someone has been pushed to make the product sound as great as possible. Look for gentle phrases that sound like they came from a product description or a press release, such as “This software fully integrates with the application ecosystem my workflow requires.”
Likewise, a review that is difficult to read can be a sign that it is illegitimate. Lots of companies pay people, usually in developing countries where English is not the primary language, to write positive reviews of their products. These external reviews inflate the product rating.
4. Excessive humor
Many people treat reviews as a place to test their comedy skills. Humorous reviews can sometimes be welcomed in silly product listings, like Haribo gummy bears sugar-free candy. But often, humor and sarcasm can make it hard to tell if a review is really funny or just write a fake review for laughs.
This is exacerbated by some online stores like Steam, which have a “Funny” button at the bottom Was this review helpful? Section. One popular Steam review method is to write “It’s OK,” as opposed to the great amount of game time the reviewer has. This doesn’t tell you anything about whether you should buy the game, so it’s useless as a review.
As a general rule, ignore reviews that don’t actually discuss the product. More helpful reviews you won’t wander under like these.
5. Focus on irrelevant details
Some of the points we have discussed help you to spot fake reviews completely, but these are not the only unhelpful types of reviews that you need to get rid of. There are also reviews that are not relevant because they do not address the main question: whether the item is worth buying.
A common form of this is reviews complaining about slow shipping times, damaged boxes, or other occasional details. While it is frustrating for an item to be damaged during shipping, it does not affect the quality of the actual product.
Ignore the reviews that say “the product deserves five stars, but I gave one star because of packaging flex” or something similar.
6. The reviewer has not already purchased the product
Many sites, including Amazon, show you if the reviewer has actually purchased the item they are reviewing. If a person does not buy the product, you should not trust what they will say about it.
Like point #1 above, it’s possible that they are just slandering the product because they don’t like the company. If you are able, always filter by people who already own the item. But be aware that just because this mark appears, it does not mean that the review is trustworthy (see below).
The only possible exception is people who bought an item elsewhere and then reviewed it on Amazon to let people know about its problems. But this is rare, because most people will not take the time to do so.
If someone seems suspicious, click on their profile to see other reviews they have left. Look for patterns that don’t make sense, like reviewing expensive items of the same type (like many TVs) in a short amount of time.
7. Free product mention
It is a common practice for companies to offer a free product in exchange for a review. And while they don’t always mention that you need to leave a positive review, people who engage in such schemes are probably afraid that they won’t get another invite for a free product if they leave a negative review.
Many sites don’t allow these free product reviews anymore, but that doesn’t mean they never happened. If you see someone mentioning that they left a review in exchange for a free item, or if they tend to leave reviews only for companies known to offer such deals, treat what they say with skepticism.
Even if a person tries to leave an objective review, getting something for free changes your mind compared to something you spent your own money on.
8. Website-controlled reviews
Finally, you should also look for reviews that are not real user ratings at all. This is not an issue with sites like Amazon and eBay; It’s more common on first-party websites for software and products. In these cases, you’ll see plenty of curated high reviews singing the praises of a product, but there are rarely any negative reviews to balance it out.
If a site curates the reviews you see in order to improve its appearance, don’t trust those reviews.
Online reviews are not as helpful as they appear
While reviews let you know what real people think about a product, not all of them are trustworthy. Keep the above points in mind when considering reviews to reduce the chance of a spurious review affecting your decision.
There are ways to combat fake reviews, too. If the site allows you to report suspicious comments, do so. Be sure to compare multiple reviews, including professional reviews, for an overall opinion. And consider writing your own reviews that will be useful to others in the future.
You cannot trust everything you see on the internet. Here are seven common fakes on the Internet and some tips for identifying them.
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