How to spot a fake review: you're probably worse at it than you realise

Many of us may be fooling ourselves about not being fooled by others.

How to spot a fake review: you're probably worse at it than you realise

Adrian R. Camilleri, University of Technology Sydney

Ever relied on an online review to make a purchasing decision? How do you know it was actually genuine?

Consumer reviews can be hugely influential, so it’s hardly surprising there’s a thriving trade in fake ones. Estimates of their prevalence vary – from 16% of all reviews on Yelp, to 33% of all TripAdvisor reviews, to more than half in certain categories on Amazon.

So how good are you at spotting fake consumer reviews?

I surveyed 1400 Australians about their trust in online reviews and their confidence in telling genuine from fake. The results suggest many of us may be fooling ourselves about not being fooled by others.

In strangers we trust
Online consumer reviews were the equal second most important source for information about products and services, after store browsing. Most of us rate consumer reviews – the views of perfect strangers – just as highly as the opinion of friends and family.

Trust is central to the importance of reviews in our decision-making. The following chart shows the trust results broken down by age: in general, people most trust product information from government sources and experts, followed by consumer reviews.



The chart below displays trust ratings according to website, with the most trusted sources for reviews being TripAdvisor.com.au, Google Reviews and ProductReview.com.au.

Those aged 23-38 tended to trust sites the most, and those above 55 tended to trust sites the least.



While 73 per cent of participants said they trusted online reviews at least a moderate amount, 65 per cent also said it was likely they had read a fake review in the past year.

The paradox of these percentages suggests confidence in spotting fake reviews. Indeed, 48 per cent of respondents believed they were at least moderately good at spotting fake reviews. Confidence tended to correlate with age: those who were younger tended to rate themselves as better at detecting fake reviews.



In my opinion, respondents’ confidence is a classic example of overconfidence. It’s a well-documented paradox of human self-perception, known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. The worse you are at something, the less likely you have the competence to know how bad you are.

The fact is most humans are not particularly good at distinguishing between truth and lies.

A 2006 study involving almost 25,000 participants found that lie-truth judgements averaged just 54 per cent accuracy – barely better than flipping a coin. In a study looking more specifically at online reviews (but with only a small number of judges), Cornell University researchers found an accuracy rate of about 57 per cent. A similar study based at the University of Copenhagen found an accuracy rate of about 65 per cent, with information about reviewers improving scores slightly.

What we look for
So what tends to sway people’s judgement about whether a review is fake or not? My research suggests that the most important attribute people look out for is ‘extremity’ – going over the top in one-sided praise or criticism.



This sentiment is a relatively sound rule of thumb, supported by analysis. Studies suggest fake reviews also tend to:

  • focus on describing product attributes and features
  • have much fewer subjective and anecdotal details
  • be shorter than others
  • be relatively more difficult to read (probably due to fake reviewers being hired from foreign countries).

Fake reviews might also be identified by characteristics of the reviewer. Their profiles tend to be new and unverified accounts with few details and little or no history of other reviews. They will have gained very few ‘helpful’ votes from others.


The Conversation/Author provided content, CC BY-ND


Test yourself
With all this in mind, it’s now time to see how good you are at spotting fake reviews with this quiz.



Chances are you didn’t do as well as you thought you would. That’s because clever fraudsters work to hide all the attributes of fake reviews outlined above.

So, two final pieces of advice.

Use some technology to help. Two websites I recommend are Fakespot.com and ReviewMeta.com. In my experience, both do a good job of weeding out suspicious reviews (tip: be sure to delete domain suffixes such as ‘.au’ from the URLs you check).

Also check out multiple review sites to get second, third and fourth opinions. It is less likely a fraudster will be paying for fake reviews on every platform.The Conversation

Adrian R. Camilleri, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    MICK
    21st Sep 2019
    8:21am
    I was aware if industry in fake reviews.
    Some of the big room rental businesses were caught out using Tripadvisor to publish their cons and Tripadvisor was out a compliant player, which is why I not longer use reviews from this site. The spiel was never what the product ended up being!

    I normally look for a significant number of reviews, at least 10, to make an assessment. When you get hundreds it tells a story.
    Having had one of the worst phone disconnection problems ever I only found the reviews on Optus all too late. ProductReview, as shown by the ratings above, put me straight. If I'd only checked first we would never have been disconnected for months with no wish to fix the negligent actions of the company as we would never have signed up with Optus.

    The latest con was a Facebook post where a (claimed) mother was plugging her tradie son. We got a quote but it was ridiculously expensive. Straight into the circular filing cabinet where it belonged. Next....

    One thing's for sure and that's you cannot trust business. If you are fortunate enough to find one which is honest then that's a gem.
    Karl Marx
    21st Sep 2019
    8:36am
    When it comes to accommodation reviews some companies have been caught out giving very negative reviews to competitors. As MICK said you can't trust businesses these days.
    Sometimes when traveling I may only book 1 or 2 nights then check out what else is available price wise etc


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