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How to Spot a Fake Review

Back in college, I used to use Epinions a lot. I would leave reviews of various products that I used, earn a little extra money from those reviews, and call it a day. I didn’t buy much back then so I didn’t actually read too many of the reviews. What I didn’t know, and perhaps it wasn’t as prevalent back then, was that some reviewers were being paid to write positively about certain products. It’s pretty common and, knowing what I know now, it should be expected.

So when the NY Times’ David Streitfeld took a look at the underground economy of paid positive reviews [3] I wasn’t too surprised. Any system that is trusted will be gamed. If people use TripAdvisor to research places to eat in a city, something I do frequently now, restaurants will find ways to get their spot listed first, second, or third.

So how can you spot a fake review? Unfortunately, it’s difficult but with some technology, there are a few warning signs [4]:

Whenever I look at reviews, I always look at the reviewer. Many sites now have profiles of the reviewer so you can see where else they stayed, what else they said, and generally how positive or negative they may be. Genuine or not, those will give me a better understand of how this person is and adds color to the review.

I also throw out any super positive and any super negative reviews. The super positive always make me hesitant because, let’s be honest, very few experiences are absolutely perfect. Also, there’s a bit of a negative bias online. People generally go online because they have an axe to grind, which is why I discount negative reviews unless they are specific to something that happened. Also, remember that competitors can get as much out of posting a fake negative review for the enemy as a positive review for themselves.

Do you have any tips for spotting fake reviews?