Why You Should Be Suspicious of This Verified Amazon Customer Review
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Why You Should Be Suspicious of This Verified Amazon Customer Review

Why is this important: One reason shoppers like Amazon is its review system, which allows verified buyers to leave untainted opinions about products. Amazon tells customers that if they have a hunch a review is fake, they should report it immediately. Unfortunately, it’s easy for dishonest sellers to game the system, and Amazon doesn’t seem willing to investigate thoroughly.

PCWorld contributor Christoph Hoffmann recently received a postcard from an Amazon seller offering him $21.65 to review an oil sprayer that retails for just $10.82. The deal was that he would write a five-star review and then email them the order number, a screenshot of the posted review, and a PayPal address for payment.

He followed the instructions and within two hours of sending an email containing a screenshot of the published review, he received his payment.

It was difficult to identify the sender, but the payment came from China, and the seller is based in Shenzhen. Amazon conducted an internal review and approved it, he said.

This depressing account reinforces the notion that many verified Amazon reviews are fraudulent, even though the company says it takes measures to combat the phenomenon, starting with a requirement that only customers who have spent at least $50 on Amazon in the past 12 months can submit ratings and reviews. But as Hoffmann’s experience has shown, all a seller has to do is contact a previous buyer to request a review.

Reporting a suspicious review—which Amazon asks customers to do in its guidelines—doesn’t seem to yield results, Hoffmann also found. Two weeks after reporting the product to Amazon, the review was still up, and 100 new five-star ratings had been added.

This isn’t a new problem for Amazon. The New York Times reported on similar activity in 2016. Paid review services seem to be a major problem, especially since they often use sophisticated methods to make reviews seem authentic. Lauren Dragan of the Times noted that some of the more experienced paid review sites even have their own fake reviewers who add a few negative reviews of products made and sold by brands that aren’t customers to create a sense of “authenticity.” It’s relatively easy for individuals or businesses to create multiple fake Amazon accounts to post reviews.

Another way the review system has been broken is through the use of incentives by sellers who offer free products or gift cards in exchange for positive reviews. Other sellers pay to post negative reviews of their competitors’ products. The proliferation of AI tools has made the problem worse, as they have made it easier to generate convincing fake reviews.

There are a few ways shoppers can sniff out these fake reviews. You can look for patterns in language and timing. If a lot of reviews use very similar wording or were posted within a short period of time, that could indicate fakes. Also, be suspicious of reviews that are overly positive or negative without providing enough detail to explain why.

Another tip: check the author’s review history to see if they only give 5-star reviews or if they’ve reviewed a lot of products in a short period of time.

Tools provided by Fakespot or The Review Index can also provide transparency. However, it should be noted that in 2021, Amazon asked Apple to remove the Fakespot app from the iOS App Store. Amazon claimed that the Fakespot app violated App Store Guidelines 5.2.2, which prohibits developers from using third-party content in an app without permission.

Fakespot founder Saoud Khalifah disagreed. He told reporters that Amazon must have realized that people were choosing its app over Amazon’s.