How to spot a fake review, before it ruins your Christmas shopping

how to spot a fake review

We’ve learnt a lot in recent years – due to COVID – about getting organised for Christmas. Think back to delivery issues and shortages of many items.

But we’ve also learnt a lot about scammers and how what seems to be genuine is sometimes not.

Think fake reviews.

A study has found that fake reviews were influencing around $152 billion in consumer spending worldwide.

Read: Eight tips to save money when shopping online

A reviews.org survey of about 1000 Australians on their review knowledge found that 95 per cent said they read reviews before purchasing something online.

More than half of those who read reviews reported that they believed they had fallen for fake reviews at some point.

This finding isn’t surprising.

The survey also included a fake review test component. When those surveyed were shown examples of online reviews, only about one in four could correctly identify the fake review.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been trying to crack down on this practice for years, fining several companies thousands of dollars for posting fake reviews or manipulating real ones.

The consumer watchdog has a few tips for those using online product reviews before making purchases.

First, it stresses the importance of seeking information from multiple sources.

Read: Can you really trust online reviews?

The ACCC also advises to look at multiple reviews and comments about the same business and take note of any irregularities, such as a spike in positive reviews over a short period of time or multiple reviews with a similar tone and vocabulary. That can signal they may have been written by the same person.

Another thing to be wary of are online contributors whose profile indicates they have only ever written one review, as that profile may have been created to write a fake review.

What reviews can you trust?

Review platforms that require proof of purchase before a review can be written are likely to be more reliable than those that do not.

If you are using a review platform, the ACCC advises checking whether the site has commercial arrangements with reviewed businesses and what benefits such arrangements offer.

For example, some of the benefits offered could include partnering businesses to choose their favourite review to appear at the top of their page or giving those who submit a negative review the option of contacting the business directly to resolve their compliant instead of posting the review.

Read: Spotting fake user reviews

The ACCC also says you should be wary of review platforms with overwhelmingly high reviews as these may point to the deletion of credible negative reviews.

Adrian Camilleri, a psychologist at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), has also researched fake online reviews and has come up with some tips for consumers looking to spot fakes.

They include:

  • fake reviews often focus on describing product features
  • they have fewer subjective details about using products
  • they tend to be shorter than real reviews
  • they are often more difficult to read than real reviews.

There are also online tools available to help consumers spot the difference between fake reviews and real ones.

Fakespot.com and ReviewMeta.com can be added to your browser to automatically analyse and identify suspicious activity and recommends better alternatives.

These tools are believed to be particularly useful for spotting fake reviews on Amazon, which is rife with fake reviews that can be harder to spot due to the scope of products available on the site.

Do you read online reviews before purchasing a product? Do you think you have fallen for a fake review before? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Written by Ben Hocking

Ben Hocking is a skilled writer and editor with interests and expertise in politics, government, Centrelink, finance, health, retirement income, superannuation, Wordle and sports.

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