10 Things You Need to Know About Fake Reviews
13 Oct 2016
Whether you’re looking for a hotel in Yosemite, deciding between two hot new burger places, or making sure everyone knows about the three-hour wait at that coffee shop, online reviews have become the currency of the savvy shopper. Unfortunately, scammers also know how much sway a positive or negative review can have. Since the rise of Yelp and Amazon, all sorts of unsavory characters—spammers, phishers, vengeful business owners—have used fake reviews to damage reputations and take advantage of honest users.
The more we know about fake reviews, the less likely we are to fall prey to them. With that in mind, here are ten important things every business owner and online shopper should know about fake reviews:
1. Fake reviews affect everyone.
According to a 2011 survey conducted at the University of Illinois, up to 30% of online reviews are fake. Regardless of their traffic or user base, very few sites are immune to fake reviews.
2. They’re not all positive.
A common misconception is that most fake reviews come from business owners giving themselves five stars to drive up business—but that’s not always true. Fake reviews can be either positive or negative: designed to bolster or damage the reputation of a company, product, or seller. It’s not unusual for rival businesses to get caught in a negative review Cold War, posting nasty reviews for each other to drive away would-be customers.
3. Fake reviewers are psychological warriors.
Many of them spend a good amount of time building their on-site reputation by leaving multiple legitimate reviews before attacking a site with a fake review.
4. Shotgunners are probably scammers.
People who rapidly post multiple reviews within minutes or seconds of one another are usually posting fake reviews.
5. Be wary of details.
If a review is overly specific—i.e. it consists of a long, winding narrative with many adjectives and descriptors—it’s probably fake. (“My husband and I took a yellow cab through the narrow streets to get to the beautiful hotel with its gothic furniture.”) A study performed at UCLA in 2011 showed that when people are lying, they provide more details, not fewer! This applies to fake reviews, too.
6. Be wary of black and white language.
Fake reviewers are extremists. They tend to rely heavily on black and white language: hate, despise, loathe, love, adore, worship. In contrast, honest reviewers, even those who really enjoyed that restaurant or who can’t stand that new movie, tend to speak in terms of pros and cons.
7. Be wary of industry-specific terms.
Reviews that are punctuated with industry jargon may appear honest and well thought-out at first glance—but they’re probably fake. Ordinary reviewers are rarely so heavy-handed with industry-speak.
8. Be wary of reviewers who overuse the product’s name.
Scammers tend to use the name of the product many, many times in their review: i.e. “For people who aren’t sure about the Xbox, before you buy the Xbox, you should research the Xbox, like I researched the Xbox…”
9. The culprit might be your number one competitor.
Businesses sometimes employ or enjoin scammers to post negative reviews on competitors’ sites. If the review mentions a rival company by name and/or was written in the rival’s home city, you might have some B2B sabotage on your hands.
10. Scammers are weirdly consistent.
Google analytics suggest that two of the most overused words in fake reviews are, oddly enough, “treat” and “recommend.”
Speaking of which…are you an online business concerned about fake reviews invading your own platform? We recommend you treat yourself to a fraud detection program! (We’re not scammers. We promise.)