Fake reviews are only an issue for the unwary

by | Jun 23, 2021

We are strange creatures and no matter what the enterprise, the unscrupulous amongst us do anything they can to secure an advantage. It’s been this way for millennia and it’s just the way it is. Even still, that doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to fall into the traps set by scammers and fraudsters. Fake reviews are like scam emails: they can be avoided. 

What brought me to the conclusion above was reading about a recent study into fake reviews. “Customer acquisition security vendor CHEQ teamed up with the University of Baltimore to produce its Fake Online Reviews 2021 report — part of what it claims to be the ‘first-ever in-depth economic analysis of the full scale of internet harm.'” (Source: “Fake Online Reviews Linked to $152 Billion in Global Purchases,” by Phil Muncaster, June 15, 2021, Info Security Group)

Even though the number of phoney reviews are estimated to be at approximately four percent, the consequences of that percentage are staggering when you look at the overall numbers of sales.

“The report’s headline claim is based on an average rate for fake reviews of 4% across platforms including Amazon, TrustPilot, Yelp and Tripadvisor, and an estimated global e-commerce market size of nearly $US4.3 trillion in 2020. It breaks down to around $US28 billion of consumer spending in the US influenced by fake reviews, $US6.4 billion in Japan, $US5 billion in the UK, $US2.3 billion in Canada, and $US900 million in Australia.

“In the US, travel and fashion (both around $US4 billion) are the sectors most affected in purely financial terms, followed by electronics ($US3 billion), furniture and homeware ($US2 billion) and entertainment ($US1 billion).” (Source: “Fake Online Reviews Linked to $152 Billion in Global Purchases,” by Phil Muncaster, June 15, 2021, Info Security Group).

These are substantial amounts of money and point to the need for real vigilance in reading and ascertaining the truthfulness of online reviews. It’s not overly difficult.

The simplest way to avoid falling for the fraudulent is to use common sense and follow a few steps. Firstly – reviews on a business’ own website are to be taken with a grain of salt. They have no provenance, except for a name and can be easily manipulated. Furthermore, it is a legal requirement for businesses to display all reviews – good or bad on their websites and not to edit them. This is not followed and it is difficult to police. So I would not take a website’s reviews at face value and I would take a few more minutes to research until I was satisfied that the product or service I was considering was up to scratch.

All this requires is due diligence – searching online to find more reviews, and more specifically, authenticated reviews. Authenticated reviews mean that a robust system backs up their publication – not just a name, or in the case of Google reviews, the need to have a Gmail account to post one. I would view Google reviews with a good deal of suspicion. They are readily manipulated and are monitored poorly. Authenticated review sites are certainly the way to go.

Think of fake reviews the way you think of the scam emails you receive on a daily basis and follow this rule of thumb – it won’t let you down – “if it’s too good to be true then it probably is”.


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