Culled from Which?
All of the headphones, smartwatches and action cameras on the first page of Amazon results when sorted by average customer review were from ‘unknown’ brands – those that even our tech experts hadn’t heard of. More than 90% of fitness trackers and wireless security cameras were from unknown brands, too.
Lesser-known brands – those that you might expect to be less popular in the UK and may struggle to achieve a good ranking in Amazon search listings, may be more likely to rely on ‘fake’ or incentivised reviews to stand out to customers. Our research would certainly indicate that this is one way some of these brands are becoming top-rated products.
The message from our investigation is clear. Shopping around online – especially for certain brands and types of products, needs more than just a reassuring glance at an overall customer score. Taking a bit more time to confirm a product is as good as it might appear is becoming ever more important if you want to avoid potential disappointment.
Tips to spot fake reviews
Take extra care shopping for brands you don’t know
Our investigation found that ‘unknown’ brands are significantly more likely to be affected by fake reviews. Scrutinise customer reviews even more carefully if you’re looking to buy a brand you don’t recognise.
Be suspicious of large numbers of reviews
If you see hundreds, or even thousands of reviews – be suspicious, especially if they are largely positive.
Look for repetition
If you see the same review titles, repetitive phrases or even the same reviewer name appear more than once on a product, it’s very likely it has been targeted by fake reviews. In our investigation, we saw many instances of ‘copy and paste’ reviews left multiple times on the same product.
Filter to check for unverified versus verified reviews
Reviews marked as ‘verified’ are those that Amazon can confirm were purchased at its website. Our previous investigation into fake reviews showed how sellers can gather verified reviews through incentivised purchases, but it’s still fair to say that unverified reviews should be treated with more caution.
You can check which reviews are verified quite easily:
- Scroll to the reviews area for a product.
- Click the link that shows the number of reviews.
- Choose ‘Verified Purchase Only’ from the ‘Filter by’ drop down menu.
Look at the dates
If large numbers of reviews were posted on the same day, or in a short period of time, it’s very likely that they are fake – especially if they are also unverified.
Check seller profiles
If you’re keen to do your due diligence before you buy – especially important for expensive items, check out the seller profile.
- At the top of a listing, under the price, click the ‘X new’ link to bring up the full list of sellers offering the product.
- Click a seller name in the Seller Information column to see its ratings.
- Here you should be able to see the business address and comments from customers.
Things you might be wary of here are foreign seller locations, strange business names, a lack of contact details, and of course, negative reviews. Scan the reviews to look for anything suspicious.
You could also type a brand into a search engine to see what comes up. If the main results are the Amazon seller profile, this is a red flag that the brand isn’t genuine or established, and should be treated with caution.