With more than 1.8 million vendors selling roughly more than 600 million items at any given time (with more coming in every year), it’s fair to say that Amazon is one of, if not the, biggest e-commerce market in the entire internet. With that many items on hand, Amazon itself can’t manually inspect every single piece of merch in its inventory: it’s neither possible nor efficient. Instead, users rely on a review system that involves a 5-star rating and a short comment on why existing customers love the item so much.
It’s a trusted system that Amazon takes seriously: vendors who continuously sell 5-star rated products get recognized as trusted sellers (pretty much securing a constant revenue stream for that seller), while people who chuck in 1-star products at bargain bin prices get shoved so far down the search results as to make them irrelevant (or Amazon just straight up bans them).
The Amazon review system is pretty much the gold standard of the e-commerce industry, a shining example of the laissez-faire system of an economy that puts the opinion of the free market above corporate interests. Those stars on your Amazon review are pretty much worth their weight in gold twice over.
But then everything changed when the scammers attacked.
The Amazon Review System (Is Broken)
In essence, the Amazon review system is designed to provide customers with unbiased feedback that’s devoid of any influence from the seller. In fact, Amazon makes it clear on its website that it tries to ensure that all reviews are authentic and unprompted.
The operative word, however, being tries: in reality, more than 30% of reviews on Amazon (and a whopping 52% on Walmart) are confirmed fake. Unfortunately, scammers learned early on that there’s good money to be made off of artificially boosting a seller’s page, with some scam groups offering a decent amount of cash for people to post fake reviews on various products. Yes, Amazon does check these reviews, but again, with over 600 million items in their inventory, it’s hard to imagine that they’d catch every single fake review.
Amazon’s review system is pretty simple: the better your rating, the more trusted you are, the more traffic you get, the more products you sell. This means that sellers hawking pirated, inferior, defective, or even downright dangerous products, can be indistinguishable from honest-to-goodness online retailers because of their unnaturally high positive reviews.
Of course, Amazon can be held liable for faulty products, but at the end of the day, people would rather chalk up a defective purchase as a bad investment and move on with their lives rather than go through the complicated (not to mention long and arduous) process of suing the online retail giant. So while Amazon does do due diligence to check as many product reviews as it can to make sure everything is above board, with the amount of merchandise they’d have to go through, it helps consumers to know the warning signs of a fake Amazon review.
Here are a few things you should do to make sure that the Amazon product you’re buying is operating with authentic reviews.
Tip: Search Amazon Reviews for Authentic Stars
Most of the time, the fake reviews and stars on Amazon can easily be spotted: 5-star ratings without comments, badly written or obviously copy-pasted reviews or a jump in ratings after just a couple of hours. The last one is the most crucial, as ratings shouldn’t just go up at such a small amount of time. If a product was receiving authentic reviews, the ratings would go up gradually and over a reasonable amount of time. For customers using Amazon Prime deliveries, where same-day or two-day deliveries are an option, rating jumps can be common, in which case, it’s best to check the reviewer themselves (more on this later).
Check the reviews experience: if it’s completely varied from other user experiences, with a focus on giving either extremely good or extremely bad claims, then it’s probably fake. A proper review will also have more than a sentence or two, so watch out for one-liner reviews: there’s a big chance those are fake too.
Again, read the reviews: if they sound like they were written by a bot or the rating jump was way too suspicious, that’s because it’s probably fake.
Tip: Review the Reviewers
Often, paid individuals who post fake reviews to do so from hastily (not to mention shoddily) created Amazon accounts. If a review sounds suspicious, check the poster’s account and look for tell-tale signs like:
- The account is only a few hours or a few days old
- The account has posted the same exact of review on multiple products
- Accounts that actually bought the product will have a ‘verified purchase’ badge next to their name
Take note, however, that the ‘verified purchase’ badge can be faked, as uncovered by a journalist, who was offered a full refund of their purchase plus a $10 “commission” just to post a fake review.
Tip: Don’t Just Read the Reviews, Read the Product Description
Scammers play their scams like a numbers game: post as many of their fake or inferior products, boost their ratings and rake in the dough. Because of the volume, they often won’t pay attention to how they write their product descriptions, with some either sporting some very bad grammar, mismatched or wrong information, or just downright missing info.
Again, Amazon will almost always be able to catch these products before they’re posted, but just in case a few get through the net, it pays well to pay attention to how these product descriptions are written. A real seller will invest time and effort into writing engaging, accurate, and complete product descriptions.
Tip: Check Non-Amazon Sites for Their Reviews
There’s a big chance that the product you’re looking at on Amazon is available on other e-commerce sites. More often than not, if the reviews there are completely different from the reviews you’re seeing on Amazon, provided you’ve done your due diligence and the other site you’re at is trustworthy, then there’s a very big chance that the Amazon product is sporting fake reviews.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that a differing opinion means that the Amazon review is fake; remember, reviews are contextual and highly subjective, but if the Amazon review shows any of the signs we mentioned above, then there’s a big chance it’s fake.
Tip: Get Help from Experts
Fake Amazon reviews aren’t just bad for customers, they’re also bad for Amazon. While Amazon Support does try its best to seek and destroy the phony reviews manually, they definitely need all the help they can get.
Aside from reporting suspicious reviews, companies like FakeSpot have taken it a step further and created an app that uses a complex algorithm that searches Amazon reviews and roots out fake or artificially inflated reviews and warns the user about it.
Common Sense and Due Diligence
Spotting fake Amazon reviews relies on two things: common sense and due diligence. If a review sounds suspicious, i.e. it’s too positive, too negative, poorly written, etc., then it’s most likely fake. Do your due diligence and search Amazon reviews for these kinds of comments to spot the fake stars. And when you do, report!