Researchers sheds light on the reasons behind the infiltration of fake reviews on online marketplaces, and how consumers can spot them

Online shopping is becoming a little difficult due to fake product reviews. The review metric system is an integral part that lets the customers determine the quality and authenticity of a product.

However, it has tuned out that many of these reviews on Amazon and other marketplaces cannot be trusted.

Before the pandemic, Amazon’s average fake reviews percentage was 30%. It has now come close to 35%, 40%.

In recent years, thousands of fake reviews have flooded Amazon and Walmart, eBay, and other eCommerce platforms, just as sales numbers have skyrocketed. The trend of online shopping has gone up 57% since the same time last year and the number of reviews is up by 76%.

Stars and reviews are elements that people trust the most since they think that it is the sign of a good or bad product. The more the stars, or reviews, the better the product is going to be.

On Facebook groups, bad actors solicit paid positive reviews to bots and make sure that negative reviews are promptly upvoted. But this has boosted the sales of unsafe products and has caused Amazon to cut ties with legitimate sellers and businesses.

CNBC recently decided to look into the reason why so much infiltration of fake reviews has penetrated and how can customers spot these fake reviews?

It has been found out that many of Amazon’s “customers” are not customers. They are an organization of paid individuals who just sit there and go on with their stars and fake reviews.

Review software company Bazaarvoice did a study of 10,000 consumers  and found that, 42% of consumers said that fake reviews from the brand itself would cause them to lose trust. While, 82% of those consumers claimed that would cause them to never buy that brand again.

The problem is fake and real reviews are getting harder to spot.

Usually, free products and payments are the most common incentives for anyone to post a review, even genuine ones.

UCLA and USC released a study in July that found more than 20 fake reviews related to Facebook groups with an average of 16,000 members. In more than 560 postings each day, sellers offered a refund or payment for a positive review usually around $6.

Amazon told CNBC that it gets rid of these bad actors with the help of social media sites. The company has sued many bad actors so far who tried to abuse its review systems. Outside sources like the FTC require reviewers to disclose any payment or connection to the product being reviewed.

There are some authentic paid reviewer programs like Amazon Vine, Early Reviewer, and Amazon Associates, and they all require reviewers to disclose any free product or any other form of compensation they received for writing a review, even an honest one.

Not only humans but now Bots are also getting better at generating convincing written reviews and for upvoting all the negative comments quickly. However, the patterns these bots use are often detected quickly by Amazon's algorithms and then it removes them within weeks.

Amazon says that they wait 30 days and if they detect that there are enough fake reviews, they pull

back those fake reviews, but during that period, the product can generate a whole lot of sales that it did not deserve otherwise!

In 2019, Amazon changed its review system so customers can leave a simple star rating with one click instead of a full written review, but it opened more paths for fake reviews.

Some important ways to spot these reviews include Fakespot, which launched a new Chrome plugin that analyzes the credibility of a listing's reviews and gives it a grade from A to F.

The Fakespot Guard catches these sellers and then it offers you an alternative seller that is authentic and genuine.

Other online tools that customers can use to check the credibility of Amazon reviews include ReconBob, ReviewMeta, the Review Index, and Review Skeptic.

Shoppers can manually spot fake reviews, too by judging from the language used in all reviews. If it seems the same, they should be construed as fake reviews.

The second most important way is reviews that are not actually about the product. The third is poor grammar and misspellings.

And the fourth is the overwhelming and extremely high number of five-star positive reviews which is sure-shot a sign of bot-generated reviews.

Amazon told CNBC that they use powerful machine learning tools and skilled investigators to check more than ten million review submissions weekly so that abusive reviews can be stopped before they are even posted, yet it appears the rise of fake reviews are not slow down.

Read next: The Cost Of Counterfeits - And How To Avoid Them (infographic)
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