How to spot fake consumer reviews

Katie Reseburg

When you can it's good to do you part for online reviews. If you particularly like or dislike you bought something online, be sure to share it with the community.

How to spot fake consumer reviews

Not all consumer reviews are trustworthy. Now that just about anyone can post a public assessment of a product, service, business, or even an individual, it's getting harder to spot the fakes from the true, helpful reviews.

As editorial director of BestReviews, I've learned a lot about how to spot the fakes. So, what is a "fake" review? Here are the main culprits:

The reviewer was given the product for free or at a deep discount in exchange for a positive review.

The review is based solely on information about the subject being reviewed, like product specifications, and not on personal experience with it. These are often written by bots or people who have never actually used said product/service.

The review is based on superficial qualities only, such as its appearance - nothing to do with functionality, usefulness, quality, etc.

Now, let's get down to the clues a review is fake or not to be taken seriously ...

Too good to be true

If it "changed my life" or "fixed everything", that's a good indicator the reviewer was either given the product in exchange for high praise, or is just trying to help a friend out with a positive review. A few exceptions could be a really great service company or miracle product (they do exist, but rarely), but if something seems overly hyped, it probably is. This goes double for products like diet supplements and subjective items like fashion where one size does not fit all.

Several top-rated reviews in a cluster of one to three days

If you skim through the reviews and most are scattered over a few days or weeks, then suddenly there's a bunch of reviews with the highest rating over the span of a few days, it's suspicious. The manufacturer could've provided samples and the reviewers probably didn't even have a chance to use it yet, or not enough to give a solid assessment of pros and cons.

Vague and/or short

A genuine review should describe the user's experience with whatever they are reviewing. This takes at least a few sentences - ideally several paragraphs of well thought-out first-person descriptions. If it's something like "Love this product!" or "Won't be buying this again", you can't make any helpful assumptions about it. It shouldn't just say if they like it or don't, but why.

Hostile language

If a reviewer is clearly very angry, using derogatory, threatening language, all CAPS, and other forms of aggression, it's probably not a trustworthy review. This person might have something personal against the company, had one strange isolated incident, or is just bored and wants to take their frustrations out on something. If an experience is truly awful, a helpful review will rationally describe the experience and paint a picture for others of what the cons are.

They just received it

If it's clear they just took it out, looked at it, and decided they love or hate it, yes, it could be as good or bad as they claim - but reliable reviews are written after enough experience with it to provide comprehensive pros and cons. A clear giveaway is when the reviewer discusses packaging.

Extremes only

If something only gets the very highest and lowest ratings, something is definitely out of whack. Few things are either totally loved or hated. A few reasons for these haphazard reviews: It's a bad product but a bunch of people got freebies to write good reviews, one batch was defective (often, this is with food or other perishable items), or it's a great product but a group of people wanted to bring its ranking down and consorted to write a bunch of negative reviews (I've seen this on things like games, restaurants, and other local businesses).

It's based on something else

I see a lot of poorly reviewed products where the review says nothing about the product itself, but about how it arrived (damaged during shipment, the wrong color or size, missing parts). Now, if this seems to be a trend for a lot of others, it is a legit review and a good warning about how it might arrive should you buy it. But if it's one random review, the blame is on something else like a shipping mistake that the company likely fixed (or would should the buyer contact them directly or follow instructions on making a return).

Katie is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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