With Amazon Prime Day comes great excitement – and, of course, lots of fantastic deals.
However, things are never that simple on the internet, where bad actors are always ready and waiting to seize the opportunity for a quick buck.
Fake reviews, from fake Apple App Store reviews to Dangerous extensions on Google Chrome Store (opens in new tab) make it difficult for consumers to identify the truth when making purchasing decisions.
That’s not to say all customer reviews are fake – many users take the time to legitimately express their thoughts, but when it comes time to finally spend your savings on a Prime Day deal, it’s important to consider that not everything is always so it seems.
Amazon fighting fake reviews
Amazon is no stranger to rave reviews (where positive reviews are posted as a favor or in exchange for ill-gotten gains) and has been in the media spotlight on the matter.
These forged reviews take many forms; from small-scale operations involving fake reviews from family and friends to large operations with companies dedicated to selling fake Amazon reviews in bulk. Previously, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) even had to weigh against fake comment groups on social media sites (opens in new tab).
Things got even more confusing when Amazon introduced global ratings in the product reviews section, which gathered reviews from around the world. In some countries, the available product has very different and in some cases completely different specifications.
Also, with the removal of the comments section and the addition of one-touch reviews, it is becoming increasingly difficult to verify the validity of customer feedback.
Amazon regularly removes fraudulent reviews and even ceased operating its Chinese market (opens in new tab) following difficulties in monitoring and growth. However, it’s fair to say it has a pretty mammoth task on its hands, with a 2021 Amazon blog post (opens in new tab) stating that it has over 300 million active customers and over 1.9 million sales partners worldwide.
According to the post, in 2020, Amazon stopped “over 200 million suspicious fake reviews before they were seen by a customer,” and over 99% of review enforcement was driven by proactive detection.
An Amazon spokesperson highlighted to the set of policies (opens in new tab) to reviewers and sales partners, expressing a commitment to “suspend, ban and take legal action against those who violate these policies”.
The spokesperson added to this, saying that Amazon uses “powerful machine learning tools and skilled investigators to review more than 10 million weekly review submissions, with the aim of preventing abusive reviews before they are even published.
“Additionally, we continue to monitor all existing reviews for signs of abuse and act quickly if we find an issue. We also proactively work with social media sites to report bad actors who are cultivating abusive reviews outside of our store.”
How to spot fake reviews
While Amazon continues to work behind the scenes to minimize the impact of fake reviews, they seem to be here to stay in every corner of the internet. However, there is a lot you can do to protect yourself.
There are some red flags that are easy to spot; overly promotional language, repeated comments, comments for an entirely different product, etc. Still, it can take a bit of legwork when you’re trying to make a choice – especially a quick one on Prime Day.
While Noonan noted that ReviewMeta data did not show a change in the rate of fake reviews posted, Khalifa’s FakeSpot tool noted an influx of fake reviews over the course of the 2020 lockdown.
Where previously they accounted for an average of 25-30% of all global ratings, in June/July 2020 this has increased to 40-45% according to FakeSpot data – a number Khalifa has never seen before.
He says the problem stems from the volume of sellers using the site as a “valet service”, claiming that it is “impossible for Amazon to verify that all products and reviews are legitimate or not”.
As highlighted in Amazon’s recent blog post, social media groups play a huge role in today’s fake review market.
Noonan says that sellers in these groups will pay members to buy and rate the products: “The reviewers are using their own money to buy the product, so the reviews still have the ‘Verified Buyer’ badge.
In addition, Noonan says, many sellers are encouraging reviews by offering bundled deals. “They will use tricks like pre-screening customer feedback before asking for a review and even asking people to change their reviews to 5 stars before they receive the free gift.
“This is against Amazon ToS, but I’m personally seeing a note like this on about 35% of my Amazon purchases.”
In addition to the superficial information a consumer can get from a quick glance at a listing, there is a lot of deeper information that can help make an informed decision.
Noonan highlights unverified purchases, “easy rating” reviewers who give everything 5 stars, batches of reviews in close succession, as well as the type of language used in reviews as indicators of authenticity that ReviewMeta checks.
In addition to the quality issues that can arise with cheap products that slip off the net on Amazon, there are legitimate concerns about how fake reviews can also mask counterfeit items.
Khalifa highlights how counterfeits of everything from Apple products to gaming equipment and components from brands like Nvidia and AMD are available on the site, which can be purchased in bulk from sites like Alibaba and Aliexpress.
Using components as an example, he says, “Many people question us when we give F grades to ads like these. It’s because the ads are known to have fakes for sale and they use fake reviews to hide them.
“You read the reviews, buy the product and don’t expect it to be a fake, but it’s an insidious problem that won’t show up until the component overheats.”
Fortunately, tools like ReviewMeta and FakeSpot give customers a way to shop faster and more effectively on Amazon this Prime Day.
ReviewMeta allows users to copy and paste any Amazon product URL into ReviewMeta.com to receive a full review of reviews.
Noonan says, “We leverage algorithms and data science to examine hundreds of millions of reviews and help identify suspicious patterns in reviews.”
FakeSpot also has a website with a similar function, as well as a browser add-on for Chrome or Firefox and an app that enhances the buyer’s journey while shopping online with a set of features.
The first is FakeSpot’s review rating, which uses an AF rating system to score the reliability and reliability of reviews. Next up is FakeSpot Guard, a tool that highlights sellers known to market counterfeit goods, which was added in 2020 after the team identified an increase in counterfeiting issues. Lastly is the Highlights feature, which provides the top-notch review information that is most important to users.
Amazon Prime Day is an exciting time to get a great deal – so make sure it’s a really good deal you’re getting.
Whether remaining skeptical and investigating reviews yourself or using tools to do the legwork for you, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself online against deceptive promotional tactics.
If you see a review that you believe to be false, it’s important to report it to Amazon by clicking on the ‘Report Abuse’ link that appears below the review.
Outside of Amazon, you can always read reviews on sites like ours and stay up to date with what we’re saying are the best deals on Amazon Prime Day.