BOSTON -- You’re shopping on Amazon and the product you like is the right price and has hundreds of five-star reviews, it must be good, right? Not necessarily.
According to Fakespot.com, a website that claims to analyze and filter out bogus or suspicious feedback on Amazon, 40-percent of customer reviews found on the shopping site are “unreliable.”
Pierce Schiller is a Harvard Business School graduate and entrepreneur. He invented an onboard storage device for MacBook computers called Tardisk. Tardisk has been for sale on Amazon since July 2015 and has more than 500 customer reviews. Schiller told Boston 25 he’s earned his 4.3-star Amazon rating with a reliable product and good customer service.
“Those reviews to us, those Amazon reviews are our lifeblood. People look at those reviews and they recognize them as the voice of the community,” Schiller added.
It's how the system is supposed to work, but not everyone plays by the rules.
Boston 25 News found hundreds of Amazon Review groups and clubs on Facebook where sellers openly offer products for free or at deep discounts in exchange for favorable reviews. Typically, the seller gets a glowing endorsement from a person Amazon marks as having made a verified purchase.
The reviewer can keep the item or resell it for cash.
In one Amazon review group someone posted, “US only, need five-star review for lingerie pay pal refund after shipment.”Another post advertised, “Baby Fruit Feeder and Silicone Bib need reviewed... 5 stars… after the review, PAYPAL return”
Sellers can also pay cash for praise. We found professional reviewers soliciting business on websites like Craigslist and Fiver. The going rate is $5 to $15 per five-star review.
As President of Brookline based PR company BIGfish, David Gerzof Richard has worked with several legitimate Amazon Sellers. He told us “The vast majority of consumers that are just popping on to the network to buy something real quick and have it delivered two days later, that is what these guys are preying upon in terms of getting those fake reviews in there and it works.”
Signs that a review might be fake:
- A review that mentions the full product name multiple times
- A long, multi-paragraphed review with over the top praise and/or pictures
- A review written by someone who only leaves five-star feedback for one specific seller
- A five-star review published before or on the same day a product is listed for sale
- A review generic enough that it could apply to any product
- A review that is not associated with a 'verified purchase"
- Multiple five-star reviews where similar language is used
You can also check reviews by entering the product's Amazon URL into Fakespot or Reviewmeta.
Both websites use algorithms to analyze the trustworthiness of the feedback left for a product.
Fakespot returns a grade. Reviewmeta returns an adjusted star rating.
"We work hard to ensure that customers can trust reviews on Amazon. Inappropriate reviews makeup a tiny percentage of all reviews on Amazon, but even one is unacceptable, and we will not stop until all are identified and removed. We prohibit incentivized reviews (reviews where the customer was provided a free or discounted product in exchange for a review) unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program or the Amazon Early Reviewer Program. We enforce a participation requirement - All US reviewers must have a password-protected Amazon.com account, used for at least $50.00 in purchases on Amazon with a valid credit or debit card. Additionally, we place limits on non-Verified Purchase reviews to preserve trust in customer reviews as well as to prevent potential abuse by bad actors trying to manipulate the Amazon reviews system.
Amazon is investing heavily in manual and automated systems to identify those who create the demand for fraudulent reviews. We have banned and will continue to ban vendors and sellers who abuse the reviews system. We have brought lawsuits against over 1000 defendants for reviews abuse and we will continue to pursue legal action against the root cause– the sellers and manufacturers who create the demand and the individuals who deliver the inauthentic reviews." - Amazon Spokesperson
Cox Media Group