Fake five-star review 'farms' are flooding Amazon with positive comments, says Which?
Research by the consumer group reveals that comments of around 350 at a time were uploaded onto the site on different days last year.
And many seemed to be copied from other reviews on Amazon.
These were in relation to products being sold by a third party seller rather than those sold by Amazon.
But Which? has also found fake review farms being used to generate positive reviews.
It found a network of Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members who were willing to write positive reviews in return for free products.
How to spot fake reviews
- Don’t rely on ratings – delve deeper and read the reviews. Do they sound natural? Are they too long or short? Are they repetitive?
- Check the dates – look at when the reviews were posted. If many of them were posted in a short time period, it might mean there has been a push for reviews on Facebook groups or other platforms.
- Are the reviews impartial? – click on some reviewers and check their history. Do they give everything five stars? What else have they bought? If they’ve bought multiple of the same type of product in the space of a couple of months, they might be a member of a review group.
- Difference of opinion – if people are praising an aspect or feature of the product that others are highly critical of, it might be suspicious.
- Pattern of ratings – are the ratings at different ends of the scale with very little in between? It’s rare that people are completely polarised about a product.
When Which?'s undercover researcher posed as a member of one of these groups and wrote a negative review of a product they'd been sent, the seller told them to delete the comment, saying they'd been sent the item for free in return for positive feedback.
These fake reviews are enticing shoppers to buy items, which they may then be left disappointed with.
A Which? survey of more than 2,000 people showed that 97 per cent use reviews when researching a purchase, with three in 10 (31 per cent) being disappointed after buying a product because of excellent feedback scores.
The consumer group reckons around 30,000 reviews of home and tech products were removed from Amazon in the past two years because they were suspected of being fake or incentivised.
Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: “It's frustrating to see that dodgy sellers are continuing to rip people off with paid-for, fake and incentivised reviews.
"They don’t represent an honest and impartial opinion, but instead mislead people into buying products that they might have otherwise avoided.
“We all like to do research before buying something. Our advice is to watch out for unscrupulous sellers with suspicious reviews and cross-check using independent review sites to make sure you’re getting the best product for you.”
Amazon has been contacted for a comment and for an explanation on how it protects users from fake or incentivised reviews. We'll update this story if we get a response.
An Amazon spokesperson told Which?: ‘"We take the integrity of our reviews seriously and take decisive action to protect customers from dishonest parties… we’ve filed lawsuits against more than 1,000 defendants for reviews abuse."
Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/01/which-uncovers-fake-five-star-reviews-flooding-amazon/ – Which?
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