Fake reviews unveiled

06 August 2019 | Becky White
Your kettle just broke, and you can’t imagine going longer than a day without your milky brew. So you hit up Amazon to find yourself a new one, and punch in an order for next day delivery. Like the savvy shopper you are, you take some time to compare kettle prices – after all, who doesn’t love a bargain find?

There’s not much point in buying a new product without first looking at the reviews, right? Since they’re written by real people who have actually used it for themselves. Well, it seems that online reviews might not be as authentic as they appear – with Facebook, in particular, recently coming under fire for exploiting potential customers by exposing them to fake, paid-for reviews of products.

After an investigation into fake review groups on Facebook, Which? found that dozens – if not hundreds – of online groups are hiring writers to purchase their products and curate inauthentic reviews for them, where the reviewers might then receive a cash incentive or a full refund.

Which? fears that these fake reviews could be dangerous for customers, promoting unsafe products. Fake reviews can look scarily realistic - but how, as a consumer, can you differentiate between an authentic review and a fake one?

Let’s revert back to the kettle scenario. Say you’ve spotted a particularly attractive kettle, and scrolled down to the reviews. You’re most likely reading a disingenuous review if the user is overenthusiastic or overexaggerates, stating how the kettle has ‘COMPLETELY changed their life!!!’, or if it’s unusually short or long. Have your suspicions, too, if multiple reviews have all been posted around the same time.

Some reviews aren’t even written by people – they’re generated by robots. It seems that we really are reliant on reviews when it comes to buying a new product, since it’s been suggested that online reviews have influenced around £23billion worth of profits.

Fake reviews aren’t something we would initially think are found on seemingly trusted social media sites – but it seems we need to be wary of anything we read online. We need to be particularly cautious of unknown brands, since these are more likely to attract fake reviewers.

Next time you’re shopping for something new, be it a kettle or any essential kitchen appliance, try going by recommendations from people you know. Alternatively, use an online tool, such as Fakespot to try and isolate the spam – something I will most definitely be using when I finally get round to purchasing a (much needed) new pair of hair straighteners!