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Five ways to spot a fake review ahead of Black Friday: CHOICE

10% of Australians have been incentivised to write a product review.

Last updated: 09 November 2023

With Black Friday just around the corner, many people will be looking up online reviews for products they're considering purchasing in the sales. However, with the increasing growth of fake reviews, it can be challenging to decipher what is real.

New nationally representative CHOICE research has found 10% of survey respondents had written a product review because they were given an incentive, such as a discount or cashback. Around 3% of these respondents were offered these benefits in return for a positive review, or to change a negative review.

"Fake reviews continue to be a problem for customers looking for genuine feedback on products and services, and they influence millions in sales every year. Despite platforms investing in tools and systems to detect and remove them, they are a persistent issue," says CHOICE journalist Marg Rafferty. 

"We know fake reviews make it difficult to find honest and accurate assessments of potential purchases, so we've collated our top tips to help you sort the fakes from the facts," says Rafferty. 

Here are five ways to spot a fake review:

1. Over-the-top or rave reviews 

"Reviews with excessive praise or exaggeration may indicate that real customers haven't written them. We recommend you approach these reviews with healthy scepticism and remember that if it sounds too good to be true - it probably is!" says Rafferty. 

2. Reviews that are light on detail 

"One-word or generic reviews like 'amazing' or 'will buy again' may be genuine, but the fact they don't mention the reviewer's experience of the product is often suspicious. Genuine reviews will likely cover product details such as performance or quality," says Rafferty. 

3. No negative reviews

"If no one has written a negative review, be cautious in purchasing. Businesses may delete negative feedback or offer inducements to their customers to change their review to a more positive one. We also found evidence of sellers recruiting people to write positive reviews in exchange for goods. No product is perfect for everyone and reviews should usually reflect that," says Rafferty. 

4. Flurry of reviews

"A sudden spike in positive reviews could result from fake reviewers, or a flurry of negative reviews can also be fakes coming from disgruntled ex-employees or competitors. Whether they're good or bad, a sudden spike in reviews over a short period can be a sign they aren't genuine," says Rafferty. 

5. Repetitive language 

"If the reviews you see all sound similar, it could mean bots are writing them. Real people write from experience and naturally use different phrases, whereas bots or paid reviewers are likely to copy and paste," says Rafferty. 

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