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How to spot fake Amazon reviews: 8 things to watch out for

Don't get tricked into spending your hard-earned cash on poor quality products.

Published onMarch 7, 2020

Amazon is one of the largest tech companies in the world, but there are some things that even it can’t figure out. Amazon fake reviews are still found in abundance on the platform, and if you’re not careful they might just trick you into buying poor-quality products.

So what can you do to avoid falling victim to Amazon fake reviews? Here’s a shortlist of things to look out for, plus a few extra steps to take before spending your hard-earned cash on the world’s leading online marketplace.

Read also: It’s 2020 and the Google Play Store still has a major fake review problem

Read several full reviews

This one might sound obvious, but the easiest way to spot fake Amazon reviews is to actually read the text of the review. You should never rely on aggregate rating scores, as these are the easiest thing to fake for shady retailers.

If the majority of five-star reviews are one or two sentences, keep digging for longer reviews that give the impression that the writer actually used the product. Short reviews containing spelling or grammar mistakes are another dead giveaway for fake reviews from international review farms.

By reading a lengthy review in full, not only can you make sure it’s a real review, you will also gain more insights into the product that aren’t found in the product description. Someone’s specific experience and use case might not match yours, but at least you can see what the reviewer liked (and didn’t like) about the product instead of a blanket endorsement.

Look for verified purchasers

fake Amazon reviews - headphones verified purchase

The Verified Purchase badge on Amazon is one way to be sure that a review is written by a legitimate customer. It shows up when the account tied to the review also purchased the item, which removes the easiest way to create fake Amazon reviews. It doesn’t always mean that the review is completely legitimate (as we’ll see in a moment), but the odds are in your favor.

Read also: Sony WH-1000XM3 review: Still the best

You may also see another message in the same area saying that the review is part of Amazon Vine. This is a special program that sends products to customers for free in exchange for reviews. It might sound like a way to buy positive reviews, but participants are handpicked for writing useful reviews, whether positive or negative. Often Amazon Vine reviews are among the most reliable reviews on the platform.

Check timestamps of suspected Amazon fake reviews

If you are looking at a relatively new product without too many reviews, it can be hard to tell Amazon fake reviews from early adopters. One way to detect any fishy behavior is to check the timestamp of each review. If there are a large number of positive reviews posted on the same day the product launched, something suspicious might be going on.

To make this process even easier, switch the reviews from Top Reviews to Most recent. This can also be useful for older products, as they might not stack up to current competition as much as they did when first released. If you’re still not sure, you can also check a user’s previous reviews for an indication of whether or not their ratings are legitimate.

Read off-site reviews

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6

Fake Amazon reviews are cheap and easy for anyone to purchase, but getting positive reviews from reputable websites is another matter. A quick Google search will yield a host of reviews which at the very least will give you more insight into the product itself.

For lesser-known brands and products, YouTube is a great source of reviews and product knowledge. The production values might not be high, but the opinions expressed are invaluable. Plus, you can get a much better look at the product itself in real-life conditions.

Beware of incentivized reviews

Misleading Amazon listings aren’t only caused by outright fake reviews. Often, sellers will incentivize positive reviews (or offer compensation to remove negative reviews) in order to boost their ratings and sell more products.

Shady sellers offer rebates or discounts in return for five-star reviews.

These incentivized reviews don’t read much differently than other Amazon fake reviews (one or two sentences, typically), but they are posted by real customers in exchange for a rebate or discount on future products. This is against Amazon’s review policies, but the tech giant has repeatedly ignored reports from consumers and let the problem fester.

An easy way to detect this is by reading off-site reviews, as mentioned above. One example is this review of a leading outdoor key lockbox (which was labeled as Amazon’s Choice) by YouTube’s LockPickingLawyer. Inside the box was a card offering a $10 rebate on the $20 product for a five-star review.

Check customer questions & answers

Amazon customer questions and answers

For tech products or products with a lot of features, the customer questions & answers section is a great source of information. Everything from specific specs to personal impressions like comfort will be addressed in this section, and you can submit your own questions quickly and painlessly.

This section tends to be more reliable than reviews because it’s more difficult to tamper with. Fake Amazon reviews are easy to buy or incentivize, but the people who answer these questions tend to have more skin in the game. Answers could come from the manufacturer itself (and are labeled as such), or unhappy customers that are more than willing to suggest alternative products.

Check Amazon fake review detection sites like FakeSpot

For products with thousands of reviews, it can be virtually impossible to know how many are legitimate by reading them on your own. Fortunately, several websites have developed algorithms capable of detecting Amazon fake reviews in mere seconds.

Read also: How to share Amazon Prime with your family

FakeSpot is one such service that detects fake reviews on Amazon, Steam, Trip Advisor, and more. You can check from the website, Chrome extension, or even the mobile app. Simply paste the URL of the product you want to check and it will filter out questionable reviews, then give an adjusted rating based on what’s left and a letter grade based on how many unreliable reviews were detected.

ReviewMeta is a similar option that focuses solely on Amazon. For the clearest picture of a product’s quality, it won’t hurt to run the link through both services. Each has its own algorithm and their results may not match. There’s also a small risk of false positives, so take results with a grain of salt.

Return fake or misleading products

Amazon logo hero shot

At the end of the day, none of these methods will eliminate the risk of being duped by Amazon fake reviews. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and hope for the best.

If a product proves to be less than satisfactory, Amazon makes it simple to return products. For most items, the return window is 30 days, although some products can be returned beyond that date for a smaller refund. You find more details about returning and refunding each product in the Your Orders section of Amazon.

In general, products fulfilled by Amazon have the best return policies, and third-party sellers can more or less set their own rules on returns. That said, third-party sellers that qualify for Amazon Prime are subject to the same return policies as Amazon products.

Plus, if a third-party seller is clearly trying to scam consumers, you can always file an A-to-z Guarantee claim with Amazon. Amazon takes these claims very seriously, and more often than not you will get a refund or replacement product.

That’s it for our guide on how to spot Amazon fake reviews! Got any more tips or experiences to share? Let us know in the comments below!