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  • Writer's pictureAngus Stewart

It's a jungle out there....

Man lost in jungle  Image created by Dall-e

The prevalence of fake reviews on Amazon has become so widespread that consumers are struggling to avoid them. The growing issue of sellers paying for positive reviews to boost their products' rankings and visibility on the platform has left many wondering what can be done. The problem, however, extends beyond Amazon, affecting many other online markets. So how can consumers see thee wood for the trees?

The motivation behind fake reviews is a symbiotic relationship between sellers seeking increased sales and reviewers looking for compensation, either in cash or free products. Various methods, such as overseas companies selling positive reviews in bulk, social media groups organising review teams, and sellers offering incentives, contribute to the thriving underground market for fake reviews.

To navigate this landscape, consumers are advised to be cautious, particularly when dealing with affordable items from lesser-known brands that may only have reviews on Amazon. There are several strategies to help identify fake reviews, including checking for red flags such as an unusually high percentage of five-star reviews, lack of detail in reviews, generic titles, mentions of competing products, and poor grammar and spelling mistakes.

Additionally, consumers are encouraged to confirm the product being reviewed, switch from top reviews to most recent reviews, and look for legitimate reviews in the middle range, as fake positives tend to be overwhelmingly positive, with fake negatives being overly critical. Cross-referencing reviews on other platforms, researching the brand online, and investigating the reviewer's profile, including their number of reviews and purchase history, can also help.

Amazon claims to be actively combating fake reviews by removing suspicious ones and occasionally banning sellers engaged in prohibited practices. However, the sheer volume of goods and reviews on the platform poses a significant challenge. Consumers are urged to report suspected fake reviews by using the "Report Abuse" link under each review.

Amazon's Vine Program is part of its strategy to combat fake reviews. The program selects insightful reviewers to receive free products from various brands in exchange for honest reviews. While Vine reviews are labelled as part of the program and are generally more in-depth, there are criticisms of the program, including the potential for unscrupulous sellers to offer extra incentives for positive reviews.

Artificial intelligence is a new tool in Amazon's fight against fake reviews. The company claims that its AI can investigate suspicious reviews by analysing the reviewer's history, sign-ins, and relationships with other online accounts. However, AI can be a double-edged sword, as chat bots powered by AI can generate convincing fake reviews.

To assist consumers in identifying fake reviews, there are third-party tools available.

Fakespot is a Chrome extension or mobile app that analyses review legitimacy and seller history to weed out fake reviews.

Review Meta allows you to paste a URL to get analysis and an adjusted score that filters out untrustworthy reviews.

The Review Index tries to identify fake reviews and flag them, but it also offers useful review summaries categorised by specific elements of each product.

It is not possible to verify the accuracy of these tools, and the ratings and analysis they provide still require some interpretation. Amazon insists its fake review problem is not as bad as these tools suggest, but be aware that any system designed to spot fake reviews will produce false positives. That said, they can help you analyse unfamiliar brands and products.


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