How to spot fake online reviews

fake online reviews

Illegitimate reviews can put you and your money at risk

These days, most of us look to reviews on the online marketplace before making purchases, especially the big ones. But buyer beware: there's a huge market for fake reviews, and they masquerade among the legitimate ones. 

"Fake online reviews for products and services are often purchased by third parties or marketers to drive up demand for the items they sell," said Tony Gingrasso, litigation and divorce and family law attorney with Johns, Flaherty & Collins. "Unfortunately, there are a lot of shady people out there who want to manipulate the public. Taking the time to read reviews carefully and spot the fake ones can protect you and your hard-earned money." 

Buying online? Critical thinking is key. 

For many consumers, thinking critically about the reviews of a product is another potentially time-consuming step in their busy lives; who has time for that? More, spotting fake reviews takes a keen eye for details and a little bit of street smarts. The outcome is worth it: when you carefully vet the online reviews and toss out the ones that seem fake, you can feel more confident in your online purchases and the quality of the items you're buying.

Here are several telltale signs that may indicate a fake review. 

Vague reviews

Keep your eyes peeled for very short reviews that don't give much detail. One- or two-word reviews that are super positive should be viewed with wariness. Real people who take time to review products generally share more than a word or two, and most reviewers genuinely want to help other shoppers, so they'll contribute more to the conversation. 

Reviews posted in rapid succession

Fake reviews are often posted en masse, meaning they hit the boards in a short time span. Sometimes that not-so-mysteriously coincides with sales or big shopping holidays. Luckily, many sites allow you to sort reviews by date. This can help you spot fake reviews that were part of a coordinated effort.

Five stars all the way

"If a product or service has a huge volume of five-star reviews, take it with a grain of salt," Gingrasso explained. "Real consumers see both the good and bad and are likely to talk about the less-than-perfect aspects of a purchase."

If it seems all reviews are positive with no drawbacks, consider them with a healthy dose of suspicion. 

It ain't gud grammer or splllg

See what we did there? Poor grammar and bad spelling are definite flags for fake reviews. 

"These fake reviews are sometimes generated by content mills, which are typically overseas, and employ people for whom English may not be their first language," said Gingrasso. 

Customer reviews with mistakes or sentences that don't make sense should definitely make you cautious. 

It sounds like marketing wrote it

If it sounds like ad copy, it could be a bogus review. Likewise, if you see the same wording pop up over and over again in reviews, there's a chance they aren't legitimate. 

Your product recommendations get weird

Online marketplaces often share links to other products you might like based on what you are viewing or purchasing. Suggestions related to what other shoppers bought can serve as a tool to identify fake reviews. When the products look totally unrelated, it may indicate that reviewers are not who they claim to be and are leaving a number of fake reviews. 

Protect yourself online with due diligence

Buying online can be convenient and cost-effective, but all of those benefits are meaningless if you're caught in an online scam or misled about a product. It's all too easy to hit the purchase button without thinking, but that can swiftly lead to buyer's remorse. With these tips in mind, you can make better-informed online purchases and protect yourself. And if you run into substantial legal issues, you may want to consult with a trusted attorney in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to protect your interests. 

Tony Gingrasso, La Crosse WI lawyerInformation provided by Tony Gingrasso, a La Crosse lawyer with Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC. 

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