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

Normally, thinking about Christmas shopping in early October is reserved for the super smart and prepared, but this year, with parcel deliveries being delayed due to a combination of high demand, strikes and lockdown, everyone is thinking about ordering early.

With much of the country still in lockdown and others wary of venturing to busy shopping centres, many will be shopping online for their Christmas presents this year.

This change in the shopping experience brings with it new pitfalls, such as falling for fake reviews.

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In July, YourLifeChoices reported on a study that found fake reviews were influencing around $152 billion in consumer spending worldwide.

Review site conducted its own research, surveying around 1000 Australians on their review knowledge and 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.

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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 this year.

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

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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.

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. and 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?

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Written by Ben