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Tips on spotting fake online reviews

When checking online reviews, scrutinise the language used before deciding to make a purchase.

There is growing evidence of women across Africa facing online disinformation campaigns aimed at forcing them out of politics, experts say
There is growing evidence of women across Africa facing online disinformation campaigns aimed at forcing them out of politics, experts say - Copyright AFP OLIVIER DOULIERY
There is growing evidence of women across Africa facing online disinformation campaigns aimed at forcing them out of politics, experts say - Copyright AFP OLIVIER DOULIERY

Online reviews have become a cornerstone of many people’s online decision-making processes. Before you try a new restaurant, book a hotel, or purchase a product, many turn to the Internet to read what others have experienced. These reviews serve as an important source of information to mitigate uncertainty around product quality, particularly when consumers have not seen the products themselves beforehand.

Yet how genuine are these reviews?

It has become increasingly challenging to separate genuine feedback from fraudulent ones. Too many businesses and individuals are using these fabricated testimonials to boost their ratings, sales or reputation.

To help best navigate this issue online, Alain Vartanian, a shopping expert at Customer Service Number, has told Digital Journal his tips on how to spot a fake online review.

Language Check

When checking online reviews, scrutinise the language used before deciding to make a purchase.

“Fake reviews often employ overly positive or exaggerated language, so it’s best to check for excessive use of phrases, like ‘the best ever’ or ‘absolutely amazing’ to influence your decision. Likewise, overly negative reviews could also be a cause for concern if they contain extreme and emotional language”, observes Vartanian.

Vartanian adds: “An authentic review will tend to strike a more balanced tone, describing both positive and negative aspects of the overall experience”.

Reviewer Profile

Take a closer look at the reviewer’s profile to determine if the opinion is genuine. Some sites might not let you view this information, but websites like eBay will allow you to view past reviews and purchase histories.

“Typically, certified customers will have a history of leaving reviews for various products or services, while fake profiles are often newly created with little to no prior activity. Additionally, you can check to see if the reviewer has reviewed the same product or business within a short time frame, this could be a red flag,” the Vartanian recommends.

Item Specifics

Authentic reviewers tend to provide specific details about their experience, for example, the process or time of assembly, delivery process or styles.

In contrast, Vartanian points out, fake reviews are often vague and lack these specific details which should make you throw some caution to the wind.

Cross-referencing

To enhance your review authenticity, why not consider cross-referencing multiple sources?

“Check other review platforms, social media or forums to see if there is a consistent pattern in the feedback on things like the quality, delivery or service. Genuine reviews are more likely to be mirrored across various platforms, while fake ones may stand out as inconsistent or appear as isolated incidents,” suggests Vartanian.

Duplicated Content

Fake reviews are sometimes copied and pasted across different websites or listings and when you see instances like this, in some cases they are not authentic.

According to Vartanian: “You can use plagiarism detection tools or search for specific phrases from the review to see if the comments appear elsewhere online.”

Use the Right Tools

Shoppers might also find it handy to use review analysis tools and services that can assess the authenticity of reviews automatically.

Vartanian recommends: “These specialist tools use advanced algorithms to detect patterns and anomalies in reviews, these findings can help you to identify potential fakes more efficiently.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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