Fake reviews: A threat to consumers and businesses

The internet is inundated with fake reviews.

TripAdvisor was the latest platform to come under fire after reports that some of the top 10 rated hotels in popular tourist destinations had been pushed up the site’s rankings by fake reviews. In response, the site said it had taken down over one million fake reviews in 2018.

In a separate case, Facebook removed nine fake operating groups that were found to have been paying members of the public to leave 4- or 5-star reviews on products listed on Amazon. However, their general policy appears to be responsive rather than proactive, only taking action when told about a fake account or group and won’t actively search and track these groups offering fake reviews.

So, if we know enough about the issue, how do we stop it?

 

How do you stop fake reviews online?

It’s not just counterfeit products being sold online that impact consumers and brands alike. Many customers rely on reviews when considering which products to buy, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that crooked operators will offer fake reviews of their fake products to boost their sales.

It is easy to be re-active when it comes to shutting down these fake reviews, only reporting and removing them when the arise. However, if this problem is to be eradicated entirely there needs to be more coordinated action across industry from both social media providers and eCommerce platforms, as well as brands and software providers.

The issue of fake reviews is a perfect example where collaboration could make a real difference. With collaboration, regular analysis of review patterns can highlight the fake reviews, track their source and shut them down before the next one can be created. This requires social media providers to track the groups that are creating these fake reviews, eCommerce platforms to be open and honest about who is reviewing products and for brands and software providers to make a concerted effort to protect their consumers from buying counterfeit products of their brand.

 

Don’t be fooled

There are some basic steps consumers can take to protect themselves from being fooled by fake reviews online:

  • The one-star reviews are just as important as the five-star reviews, especially if it’s for a brand or product you’ve never heard of before. If they’re all five-star, are they similar in tone and language? This might suggest coordination.
  • Check when the reviews were left. It’s more than likely that a popular new product will have an influx of reviews on release day, but if there are hundreds of reviews, all positive and posted around the same day, these reviews could be fake.
  • If possible, check the account of whoever left the review. Are they a regular reviewer of products or just the one you are viewing? This could show accounts created solely for the purpose of a fake review.

 

The future risks of fake reviews

If the abundance of fake reviews remains on key online marketplaces such as Amazon, Facebook, TripAdvisor etc., it could soon be difficult to tell a fake review apart from a real one. If there no action is taken to remove these reviews, then consumers are faced with an even bigger risk of purchasing counterfeit products.

The proliferation of fake reviews could also lead to a rise in profits. Whilst a fake review might not seem an immediate issue on the surface, its impact could be felt deep down in illegal counterfeit operations if they improve sales of fake goods online, and therefore allow counterfeit resellers to scale up their production of counterfeit products.

Tosshan Ramgolam, Brand Advisor, Incopro

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