How to Spot Fake Reviews on Amazon, Yelp, and Other Sites

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If you want to avoid getting scammed on Amazon and other sites, you might think the reviews section is your best friend. After all, if there’s a problem with the product other customers would point it out.

But that’s not true, because lots of reviews are fake. Scummy companies have been known to hire fake reviewers to praise products and boost sales, meaning you never know for certain that a review can be trusted.

Having said that, there are tools that help spot such nonsense, and you can learn to recognize fake reviews with time.

Scan Amazon Links For Fake Reviews Automatically

If you’re browsing Amazon or Yelp, and suspect the reviews you’re seeing are fake, there’s a quick way to support your suspicion: FakeSpot.com. This site analyzes the comments and works out whether the reviews are likely to be fake.

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To get started, copy the URL form any Amazon or Yelp page you think has suspicious review. The site will scan the reviews and give you an adjusted rating, with reviews that are likely fake removed.

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Fakespot scans the language used in every review, and also checks the profile of every reviewer, then uses a number of factors to decide whether a given review is likely to be fake or not.

For example, excessively positive language is considered a red flag. While many people are willing to compliment a good product in a review, they rarely pile on positive adjectives the way fake reviewers will. Similarly, if reviewers seem to only ever post positive reviews, and to post reviews of the same company’s products, there’s a good chance the reviews are fake. It’s also considered suspicious for a bunch of positive reviews to show up on the same day.

None of these rules are hard and fast. Sometimes real people will do these things, and sometimes fake reviewers won’t. But FakeSpot’s statistical analysis tries to spot trends and give you an idea of how likely the reviews below a given product are fake. If this site doesn’t suspect anything is wrong with the reviews, there’s a good chance you’ve got nothing to worry about.

How to Spot Fakes Yourself

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What if you’re seeing fake reviews, or comments, on sites other than Amazon or Yelp? Or just don’t want to depend on a website? Then, my friend, you need to develop an internal BS detector.

The things that FakeSpot takes into account—excessively positive language, multiple reviews published on the same day—are great initial things to look at. Then you need to consider a few more things.

  • Check the dates on the reviews. Did a bunch of positive reviews flood the product seemingly at once? If so, you’re probably looking at fake comments.
  • Consider the language choices. Fake reviewers frequently aren’t native English speakers. For this reason, you might notice some weird language choices in fake reviews. For example: a supposedly US-based reviewer might refer to something as costing “1300 USD,” even though an actual American would never specify “USD” while writing a review.
  • Click the reviewer’s profile. You can typically do this by clicking the user’s name. Does a given review seem to only ever leave positive reviews, with glowing language? Do they tend to focus on products from little-known companies? That’s very suspicious, and might be a sign that you’re looking at a fake reviewer.
  • Do some Googling. If the site you’re looking at provides a first and last name for a reviewer, go ahead and look the person up. Do the results match with an actual human person, with a Facebook or Twitter account? If so, do they talk to other humans, or just kinda exist?
  • Check the avatar. Many fake reviewers pull photos from blogs or other people’s social media profiles to appear like an actual person. Run a reverse image search to find the original source of the image. Frequently you’ll find out you’re looking at a stock photo, a photo grabbed from someone else’s blog, or even a clip from a movie.

These aren’t the only ways to spot a fake, of course, and fake reviewers are going to become more sophisticated over time. Just approach reviews with a healthy sense of skepticism, instead of assuming everything is coming from a well-intentioned consumer like yourself.

Photo credit: Colin

Justin Pot is a staff writer for How-To Geek, and a technology enthusiast who lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.