Many Amazon Reviews Could Be Bogus

John Lister's picture

A consumer group says Amazon sellers are bribing people to post bogus reviews on Amazon's websites. But it also suggests some reviewers may also be getting ripped off.

The claims come from "Which?", a British organization similar to Consumer Reports. It tested five sellers who had posted in Facebook groups designed to recruit people to buy and review Amazon products.

The groups involve sellers suggesting products which people can then buy and review, after which the seller will refund their purchase cost. Which? staff did so for five products and then posted what it called a fair review of each.

Five Star Reviews Demanded

Of the five sellers:

  • One gave a refund as promised.
  • One gave the refund and a £5 bonus.
  • One stopped responding once the review was posted.
  • The remaining two refused to pay out, explicitly stating this was because the reviews did not have a five star rating. One said that "it is the default to give five-star evaluation" when a product is received free of charge.

Amazon told Which? that its policies banned people from receiving any compensation in return for posting a review. Amazon also stated that promoting or arranging fake reviews is against its user standards.

Five Signs To Raise Suspicions

Which? says users should check for five signs of potentially bogus reviews:

  • Reviews being suspiciously long or short and sounding unnatural.
  • A large number of reviews posted in a short period, suggesting a pay-for-reviews campaign.
  • The reviewer's account always has five star reviews, or has reviewed a suspiciously high number of similar products in a short time.
  • The review praising something specific about the product that most other reviews have criticized.
  • Most reviews having a very high or low rating with few in between.

A recent survey for Which? said that 61 percent of people were concerned by fake online reviews. It also found 31 percent of people said they'd bought a product because it had good reviews and ratings but then been disappointed by the product.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you pay much attention to online reviews? Should posting a review in return for payment be illegal? How do you look out for bogus reviews?

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Average: 4.9 (8 votes)


Dennis Faas's picture

Amazon should ban all products from their store where the seller has some sort of review / compensation plan in place - plain and simple!

When I'm shopping online for something I always compare 2 or 3 (or more) of the same product by different manufacturers. The first thing I look at are the negative reviews. If there is a common thread in the negative reviews then I usually look at another product by another company. If I come to the same conclusion with a different brand, then I will usually refine my search for again.

Once I'm satisfied that there are no major issues, I'll start looking at the positive reviews. If there is an abnormally high amount of 5 star reviews, I will refine my search until I find a product with a proportionate amount of reviews (good and bad), then make my decision on that.

PseudoGeek's picture

I shop kinda opposite of most people. Take shopping for a new camera for example. I think most people will go to the local store and play with the item, see how it fits them, etc., then go to Amazon or another online store and purchase it a little cheaper. Instead, I buy from the local store after going to Amazon to see the reviews of the product. If there's a significant price difference, most local stores will give you the online price if you show them the website. I dread the soon-coming day when Amazon is my only option for buying stuff because nobody goes to the local stores anymore.

I constantly use online reviews, and often the best ones are true experts in the field who have taken the time to write a very thorough review of the product, comparing it with others in the marketplace.

I also often see reviews that disclose they received the item for free, but proceed to give a 3 or 4 star review that points out all the problems with the product as well as what they like about it. I have no problem with that as long as they're honest about it. Just this morning I was looking at an item and decided not to buy it because a reviewer who received it free was honest about its shortcomings in a very thorough review.

I think that "Which?" is overstating the problem to garner traffic to their site. (A Which hunt?)

dbrumley3077's picture

There are 2 sites which claim to run an analyses of the reviews and report the percentage of bogus reviews.

I've used both, but cannot vouch for either, although they seem legitimate.
Give them a try; they do not always agree with one another, but usually they do.

scowei's picture

I agree with Dennis: Ban the product. That will get the attention of sellers quickly.

Amazon can figure this out if they want to. Fakespot, etc. (which I use often) have it figured out. Apparently, Amazon - which could easily put billions into an algorithm - doesn't really care.

This is similar to the SEO games of the past (keyword stuffing, etc.). That battle escalated until eventually Google's massive advantage in brainpower and computing power essentially stopped the various practices from working except for the most sophisticated scammers. That's where Amazon needs to be.

Rusty's picture

I agree that Amazon could curtail their major fake review problems if they wanted to badly enough. Since they apparently don’t, I find fakespot to be a helpful tool for weeding out the unscrupulous sellers.

equestrian_colt's picture

Until they opened their doors to the Chinese market which flooded it with a bunch of fake products now you have all these foreigners that are responsible for the fake reviews. For competition reasons. Amazon needs to shut down all fake non copyrighted products. I'm getting tired of trying to figure out if something I am wanting to buy is fake or real.

PayPaul's picture

Fake reviews seem to be a common problem on various online retailer sites. Reviews and such activity on the site are Amazon's bread and butter. My bigger beef with Amazon is the contradictions in product descriptions and product search results. As an example one can be looking for a "laptop" and find a "rug" being sold in the search results. Many laptops sold on Amazon list the type of ram in the product title at the top of the page as being DDR4 ram and in the product specifications it's listed as DDR3 ram. I've given Amazon feedback on this issue but nothing has changed.

Girlrocker_11525's picture

I definitely read reviews. I have learned things like samsung phone batteries and Duracell batteries could be counterfeit. People who've posted reviews about that explained how to look for signs telling you whether it's real or counterfeit. so there are things to learn from reviews.

Normally I go straight for the 1 stars. I also look at the numbers and percentages of the stars. If the 1 stars is a high percentage then I'll read a few of them, decide from those and move on to the next product. If the percentages are small than I will give the product a chance, unless I'm convinced of a better product. Everyone gets a lemon of a product now and then. And not everyone has the same opinions. I haven't been disappointed yet. Just use common sense.

I have posted reviews myself. 5 stars and 1 stars. But I really don't trust all of the 5 stars. I just kind of read between the lines and can usually pick up on the phony reviews.