The whole point of user reviews is they are opinions from unbiased users, so they give you confidence to buy or avoid products you’re considering. Did the gadget break shortly after the warranty expired, or did the product not work as expected? An ad won’t tell you that, but a review will.
Unfortunately, though, not all reviews can be trusted. Some of the largest retail sites are having major issues with fake reviews — the problem is getting so bad that you need to know how to spot the real ones.

The problem with fake reviews

Many of these fake reviews originate from Facebook groups explicitly targeting members to write paid positive reviews in return for small payments or refunds on their purchases. Other more sophisticated methods utilize bots and click farms to upvote negative reviews, which helps cut down on the competition among sellers. This issue was also noted in a joint UCLA and USC study released in July, which found more than 20 fake review-related Facebook groups, with an average of 16,000 members. Researchers found that in more than 560 postings each day, sellers were offering a refund or payment of about $6 on average for a positive review. There are a number of problems that stem from fake reviews. Not only do they give customers false reassurance that products they’re buying are authentic and work as described, but they also helped boost sales of unsafe products and hurt business for legitimate sellers.

How to spot fake reviews

While retailers can employ sophisticated methods to help cut down on fake review issues, you still need to know how to spot them from the real ones as a consumer. To help spot fake reviews: Use services like Fakespot and ReviewMeta Be skeptical You should be skeptical about products with either very few perfect 5-star reviews or ONLY 5-star reviews. Some users aren’t going to like a product, even if it works as advertised, and that should be reflected in reviews. Several reviews posted in a short time frame — especially high-rated reviews — can also be a sign of fake reviews from a service or group. Watch for repetitive or vague reviews If you see a listing with tons of high-rated reviews, check to make sure they don’t all sound similar. Several similar 5-star reviews could be a sign they are fake. The same goes for vague or nonspecific reviews — if a user has something to say about a product, it won’t be general. It will touch on specific positives and negatives of the product. Look for user photos Real users post photos of products they’re reviewing, so if the review has photos posted, it’s probably real. That isn’t always the case, mind you, but it’s much more likely that a real user is going to post real photos from their use of the product. Watch out for sloppy grammar Sloppy writing and poor English in a review is often a sign that it’s fake. Misspellings and grammar issues happen, but if you’re noticing broken English or major errors, be wary of the review. Fake reviews are just one negative to come from a world of good that is connected to shopping online. Follow the guidelines we’ve outlined above and you should be able to spot fake reviews and avoid all the risks that come with them.