Fake Amazon Reviews: An Up-hill Battle

Fake Amazon Reviews: An Up-hill Battle

Self-promotion has always been a method of positive publicity. Public propaganda for literary works dates back to the 1880’s, when famous literary giant Walt Whitman was unimpressed with the negative reviews he received regarding his “first volume of poetry, titled Leaves of Grass”[1] and proceeded to publish his own pleasant review “in the September 1855 edition of the United States Review”[2] to increase sales and recognition.

What Are Fake Reviews?

Online Consumer Reviews In the twenty-first century, selling products online has become a social process. As more aspects of people’s individual lives become more technological, hearing and reading other’s opinions, especially on products that you are interested in purchasing yourself, has become exponentially important and influential in sales.

In fact, “66% of people trust online product reviews” [3].

A considerable issue that has dominated e-commerce sites such as Amazon in particular, is the obstacle of fake reviews. Previously informative to potential consumers, product reviews have become unreliable and frustrating. As an attempt to counteract this problem, Amazon has “introduced a range of measures prohibiting these so-called incentivized reviews”[4], however they remain a big obstacle that a lot of valid Sellers encounter, as well as the potential customer.

The whole point of personal reviews on sites like Amazon, is about the magnetism that comes with supposedly hearing from ordinary people like yourself, instead of messages from large companies and executives with their own professional interests in mind; not to mention a bias for their own product(s).

Reviewers get paid to write fake posts discussing the product(s) they received. In many cases, they either receive the product for free (so they get to keep the product) or they pay at a substantial discount. In the case of the latter, it seems that after the review is complete and posted, the reviewer ships the product(s) back for a refund in accordance with Amazon’s standards. This system has created “an extensive, invisible workforce fueling a review-fraud economy that persists in every corner of the largest marketplace on the internet”[5].

A main/predominant reason that this market and network has become so large is due to the importance of reviews on Amazon. It comes down to the fact that “The best way to make it on Amazon is with positive reviews, and the best way to get positive reviews is to buy them”[6]. Good reviews make your product more visible and more successful. Bad reviews can be utilized to get rid of competition and to disenfranchise a Seller and (or) their product(s).

Reviews as a Market

Around 2010, fraudulent reviews became a market in itself: buying and selling fake reviews for profit and popularity. A noteworthy example, is GettingBookReviews.com. The owner of the site charged $499 in exchange for twenty reviews[7].

Since the success of this website and websites such as this one, it is estimated “that about one-third of all consumer reviews on the internet are fake” [8].

In response for the demand, websites such as fiverr have become popular in allocating possible employees for writing these fake reviews. Additionally, Facebook has become a large source of groups, “split up by geographic region and by product categories, in which Amazon merchants actively solicited consumers to write paid reviews”[9]. Before these deceptive people start writing fake reviews, they “need a solid track record of legitimate-looking reviews attached to whatever social media account you’re using, which must also carry a good number of followers”[10].

Knowing these alleged requirements can help a Seller spot fake write-ups. Although it is more prevalent to see paid positive reviews, it is also a big space for paid negative reviews as well. Either for a personal vendetta, competition between companies selling similar products, or other reasons, a scathing negative review can really impact business; especially on a platform like Amazon where the buyer’s experience is so important and impactful.

How Can You Spot a Fake Review?

The first way to spot a fake review is through websites dedicated to finding them. Sites such as Fakespot help to distinguish between real and fake opinions. The use of algorithms to do so has worked in the past, as one just copies and pastes a link to check if it’s valid. However, reviewers have seemingly upgraded; these algorithms are no longer able to spot the fakes as easily.

There are certain characteristics/aspects of reviews that may indicate a fake. These include a sudden influx of positive reviews: which “indicates to us that people made a push for reviews to happen on a timeline”[11]. Another way that one can try to recognize a fraudulent review is through analyzing the language and syntax. Reviews that use similar words, phrases, etc. as well as photographs to reach their consumers can indicate a fake review as well.

Lastly, it is important to look into the company/brand’s “web presence”[12]. If there is some hesitance regarding the validity of the source and review, doing some preliminary research can help to spot the fakes. Doing a quick Google search of the user/Seller can give you an idea of whether or not they have an established customer base whom trusts their products. If there is no online presence or website for the individual Seller/company, that may indicate a red flag.

Fake Amazon Reviews – Conclusion

As a Seller or someone looking to purchase something off of Amazon, it is critical to make knowledgeable judgments on reviews that are given. Even though there are methods being used to make it harder than ever to find differences between valid and invalid reviews, recognizing the few tell-tale characteristics listed above can help to indicate payed-for reviews, and make a difference not only on an individual level, but communal.


Adina Grodsky - Fake Amazon Reviews: An Up-hill Battle

Author: Fake Amazon Reviews: An Up-hill Battle

Adina is a Summer Associate with Rosenbaum Famularo, P.C., the law firm behind AmazonSellersLawyer.com and RosenbaumFamularo.com. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Chinese Language from Trinity College. She will begin law school at New England Law, Boston in August 2018.

 


[1] Parkin, Simon, The Never-Ending War on Fake Reviews, The New Yorker, May 31, 2018.
[2] Ibid.
[3] (according to a 2015 study by Nielsen) Stone, Zara. A surprisingly Large Amount of Amazon Reviews are Fake, The Hustle, December 9, 2015.
[4] Box, Dan and Croker, Sachin. Fake five-star reviews being bought and sold online, BBC News. April 23, 2018.
[5] Nguyen, Nicole, Inside The Ecosystem That Feuls Amazon’s Fake Review Problem, Buzzfeed. May 7, 2018.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Streitfeld, David. The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy, The New York Times, August 25, 2012.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Dwoskin, Elizabeth and Timberg, Craig. How merchants use Facebook to flood Amazon with fake reviews, The Washington Post, April 23, 2018.
[10] Symon, Evan V., I Get Paid to Write Fake Reviews For Amazon, Cracked.com, August 31, 2016.
[11] Dragan, Lauren. Let’s Talk About Amazon Reviews: How We Spot the Fakes, Wirecutter (A New York Times Company). May 13, 2016.
[12] Ibid.

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