Watch out for fake reviews while shopping online

Spam

Online reviews are a trusted source of information, but many reviews are in fact fake reviews, put up by spammers paid by marketing companies. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Online shopping is one of the most convenient ways to get things one needs or wants, as the shopper doesn’t have to drive anywhere or really even be dressed. Many people who shop online pay attention to the reviews, but one should be cautious as many sites are plagued with fake reviews.

Amazon, other sites rife with fake reviews

Ever look at a review of a product or service or whatever while shopping online? Has one ever influenced a decision to buy something? A lot of people probably have and it’s a fair bet an online review probably has done for a number of people.

Hopefully they didn’t come to regret it. It turns out that a lot of online reviews are fake reviews, many posted by a company that was paid to post a review praising something on a website. For instance, books on Amazon.com; according to Daily Finance, a company called GettingBookReviews.com will post positive book reviews on Amazon and other sites just to promote it. The company was written up in the New York Times a while back.

The site was taking in $28,000 per month. It’s a huge business and there is a lot of money in it.

Hard to tell what is what

GettingBookReviews.com, according to the New York Times, was eventually caught by Google, which was not amused. The site closed and the owner and principal reviewer, Todd Jason Rutherford, is selling R.V.s in Oklahoma.

However, the problem of fake reviews extends far beyond fake book reviews. According to Gigaom.com, Gartner Research projects that by 2014, 10 to 15 percent of all online reviews for basically anything and everything will be fake reviews, where someone will have been paid to post a positive review. According to Time magazine, name the industry and there are fake reviews posted about it; manufacturers down to doctors and dentists are at it.

There are some ways to spot it

The Federal Trade Commission made fake reviews illegal in 2009 and has fined or shut down spammers that are doing it. Anyone with a financial relationship to the company or product they are reviewing has to disclose it or in other words, a person being paid to write a review has to disclose that they are. However, enforcement is not as consistent as many would like.

Google, according to Zdnet, as well as other entities, are working on algorithms that can pinpoint who is doing fake reviews and who isn’t.

In the meantime, there are some red flags to watch for. According to NPR, repetitive language is often a giveaway. Strings of words, sentences or phrases that appear in other reviews are probably from a spammer. If near carbon-copy reviews for the same item or service appear on other sites, it’s probably a fake. Another red flag is reviews that sound plausible but are incredibly vague; the more specific information is included, the more likely a review is to be the genuine article.

Sources

Daily Finance

New York Times

Gigaom

Time: http://moneyland.time.com/2012/02/06/how-computer-geeks-aim-to-put-a-stop-to-fake-online-reviews/

NPR: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/09/12/160755775/five-ways-to-spot-a-fake-online-review-restaurant-or-otherwise

Zdnet: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/feeds/writing-fake-online-reviews-new-google-algorithm-will-catch-you-out/4776

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