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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

How to spot fake Amazon reviews

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If you’ve bought enough stuff on Amazon, there’s a chance you’ve been duped once or twice. That’s because fake Amazon reviews are big business.

It is also a major headache for consumers. Every time we buy a dud of a fake five-star product, we become more suspicious of buying products from Amazon in the future, even those that really deserve high ratings. The company makes returning items fairly easy, but if something breaks 31 days after you bought it, you’re often stuck dealing directly with an untrustworthy seller.

While there are several ways to outsmart unscrupulous sellers — searching for product reviews outside of Amazon, looking into sellers’ histories, reading every word of every review from newest to oldest with a magnifying glass — it gets terribly tedious.

In that vein, here are two simple checks that I use whenever I buy something on Amazon. Neither lasts very long and both seem to paint a pretty clear picture of any product I might consider.

It’s a numbers game

If a product doesn’t have many reviews and if the reviews have it is doing seem overwhelmingly positive, something strange may be going on. Consider the list below.

Not to pick this unidentified product in particular – to be honest, it can be unbelievable – but it has three written reviews that use the word “love” a total of five times.

One review calls it “better than described” and another actually excitedly pulls out all the selling points from the marketing posts.

Life in the two to four star range is usually pretty fair.

Oh, and the titles for the three reviews: There’s “Love it” and of course “Excellent product” and then we take off with “Entertainment for the whole family! Great fun!”

And finally, note that two of the reviews have the “Verified Purchase” tag next to them. This means that Amazon can confirm that the person who reviewed this thing actually bought it from Amazon. Two of the reviews have this tag, but the one that doesn’t contain a user-submitted photo of the device.

A cynic might wonder if the company bought two of its own devices to submit “Verified Purchase” reviews and then submitted another review with a self-made photo of the device to make it look like a legitimate review.

So red flags abound here. Again: not that this product might not be Absolute the best of its kind – and the reviews legit – but this is a risky proposition.

Also make sure to check the dates of the reviews. The oldest here is from October 2021, meaning this product has been on the market for almost a year and only has three reviews.

Honesty lives in the middle of the road

For products that have significantly more than three reviews, I like to throw out all five-star reviews because those can be purchased, submitted by the company, or simply posted by overzealous wackadoos. And I like to throw out all one-star reviews because they can be submitted by competitors, disaffected, or overzealous wackadoos.

But living in the two to four star range is usually pretty fair.

To filter reviews this way, scroll all the way down to the reviews section of a particular product and you’ll see a simple “See all reviews >” link below the bottom review. This is where the magic happens.

Click it and you will be taken to a product review page. Here’s a sort and filter feature that you can use to see only two-, three-, and four-star reviews.

So this one here has about 100 ratings. The five-star reviews contain lots of superlatives, exclamation points, the word “love,” and stories of family togetherness.

The one star reviews seem a bit more genuine but generally angry so let’s face it and throw this one out as we’re throwing out the five star reviews too.

Checking only the two-, three-, and four-star reviews creates a pretty clear picture within the first handful. This is a console for playing retro video games, and just about every reviewer in the two- to four-star range complains that the game controllers are cheaply made and/or don’t work with certain games.

So there you have it: a decent retro console with unobtrusive controllers. Probably not worth the $100 asking price.

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