How to Spot a Fake Review on Amazon, Google, Walmart, etc.

Many of us read online reviews to help us determine the quality of a product or business. However, not all reviews are honest. Many reviews are intentionally left to sway the customer into buying a product / doing business with a particular company. Other reviews are maliciously left to damage a product’s or business’ reputation. Either way, not good.

Here is a short list of things to watch out for if you are reading an online review of a product or business. Later, I may add to this list if I have the time.

Please note that nothing is fool-proof, and that you may end up believing a review is fake when it is not or vice versa.

  1. Does the reviewer have a history of reviewing other products or businesses? – Does the reviewer’s account have a few other reviews listed, or only 1 or 2. Many times fake reviewers create new accounts for the sole purpose of posting a couple (or so) fake reviews for a particular product or business.
  2. Does the reviewer have reviews “here and there”, or does the reviewer’s account have tons of reviews in a short span of time? – One thing to watch out for is a reviewer with tons of reviews all in a span of weeks. Sometimes the reviewer may review 5-10 products, wait a couple of months, and do another 5-10 products. These people usually have several accounts, and they switch between them when writing reviews. This is obviously done for money and not for the benefit of the customer reading the reviews.
  3. How detailed is the review? – Does the reviewer give specific details in his review, or do they just give generalities like “Good product!” or “Was shipped fast!” or “Beware! Business ripped me off. Went somewhere else.”? Anytime a reviewer does not bother to give details, I would skip that review. A lot of fake reviewers are interested in how many fake reviews they churn out, not about the quality of said fake reviews.
  4. Does the reviewer have a history of all “5-star” reviews? – Even if a reviewer has many reviews spaced out over time (usually a good sign), if most of their reviews are “1-star” or “5-star” reviews, this can be a sign that something is not right. If virtually all the reviews are “5-star” ones, this can be a paid reviewer, or someone who just sees the good in everything (not a bad personality trait, by the way). This can throw off their review, since they may skip over all the “bad” and just mention the good, which does you nor anyone else any good.
  5. Does the reviewer have a history of all “1-star” reviews? – If virtually all the reviews are “1-star” ones, this can also be a paid reviewer, or someone who just sees the bad in everything. This too can throw off their review, since they may skip over all the “good” and just mention the bad, which does you nor anyone else any good either.
  6. Is the reviewer the one who purchased the item or service, or are they writing a review for their “friend”? – Any review that claims to be writing for someone else is automatically suspect in my book. While not all these reviews are fake, I personally stay away from those.
  7. (For a negative review) Has the business replied to the reviewer? – It is always a good idea to read a business’ response to a negative review. If the business has replied with good points about how the review is a fake, you may want to reconsider believing the negative review. Check to see if the business gives details about how the reviewer is lying. Also, check to see if the reviewer ever replies to the business’ response. This back and forth between a business and customer can be helpful in determining who is lying and who is telling the truth.
  8. Did the reviewer even write a review, or did he just leave only a rating? – This is when someone leaves a “1-star”, “3-star”, “5-star”, etc. rating without leaving an actual review. I usually overlook these kinds of reviews, since they really are not reviews to begin with. If someone leaves a “1-star” review with a business without writing anything, my question would obviously be: “Why was your experience a ‘1-star’?”. Ratings with no explanation do nothing to help anyone, since there is no context given. You are just left to guess. These kinds of reviews are frequently seen when searching businesses on Google Maps.
  9. Has the reviewer used the product before? – This one is kind of funny. Some reviewers claim – with a “5-star” rating – that the product “looks good” or “shipped fast” …but they suddenly claim that they have not actually used the product and are “not sure if it works or not”. These reviews – while phony – are still funny.

Here is a real-life example (for #6):

I once saw a local business have someone leave a bad 1-star review, claiming they were overcharging in their estimate and that they were able to get their vehicle repaired at another shop for a lot less cash.

Well, I read the business owner’s reply. He explained in detail how the reviewer was misleading everyone, and how there was virtually no way they could have gotten their vehicle repaired for the amount the reviewer claimed. He also asked the reviewer to provide proof of their claims, since their review was basically slandering his business and himself as well.

The reviewer never replied with anything to prove what they said was true. I suspect the reviewer was intentionally lying, since their review was somewhat vague and they obviously did not want to provide proof. Why not, if you are telling the truth?

Posted in General, Shopping, Society

Logical Fallacies – Red Herring

This logical fallacy is known as a “red herring”. This is when someone diverts attention from the subject at hand to a completely different subject altogether. This tactic is usually used when someone is being asked questions they do not want to answer, and they are hoping that the subject can be changed without you or someone else noticing.

For example, Brian is called by a sales company wanting to market him a website for his business (the sales person’s name is Lloyd). Brian is intrigued, but he has a few questions.

First, Brian asks Lloyd what companies has his business worked for in the past. Lloyd says “many”, then proceeds to tell Brian how quickly they can set him up with a website.

Secondly, Brian asks “What web platform do you use? Is there any proprietary lock-in where I have to pay a monthly web hosting fee, or can I self-host my website after it is completed?” Lloyd then proceeds to say “Do not worry. We will always make sure you have access to your website.” He then starts talking about how Brian could have a new website that all the search engines will place him in the top 10 results.

See what happened? Every time Brian asked a question, Lloyd diverted attention to some other subject. This is a sign you will not like the answers to your questions, and you should find another company to work with.

Summary: “Red herrings” are nothing more than someone’s attempt to change the subject of a conversation, usually due to uncomfortable questions being asked, or due to an unfavorable topic being discussed.

Posted in General, Logical Fallacies, Society

Logical Fallacies – Black and White

This logical fallacy is known as “black and white”. This is when someone suggests only two alternative conclusions are possible for a certain situation. However, several possibilities exist, not just two of them.

For example, Amanda woke up sick with a cold. Her friend Lilly tells her either she slept with the A/C on all night (as she usually does) and caught the cold that way, or she caught the cold from someone at work. While this generally is not a big deal, what Lilly did was technically a logical fallacy.

Amanda could have caught the cold from someone at the store. She also made several trips to the post office delivering packages. She could have caught it from someone there. She also has art class. She could have contracted the cold during one of the lessons she attended. Lilly is aware of all these facts, but she still insists only the two possibilities she mentioned can be true.

Also, what if a doctor did the exact same thing? He only investigates “two possible reasons” why you are sick. However, there are potentially a dozen or more reasons why you may be sick, but he only investigates the “two possible reasons” instead? Unless he has a good reason for ignoring the other possibilities, that would not be very good, would it?

Summary: Saying only two possibilities exist to explain why something happened, when there are many possibilities, is not wise. It is best to give all possible alternative conclusions when trying to figure out an issue to avoid possible trouble.

Posted in General, Logical Fallacies, Society

Logical Fallacies – Appeal to Accomplishment

This logical fallacy is known as “appeal to accomplishment”. This is when Person A agrees or disagrees with given information, based upon the personal accomplishments (or credentials) of Person B who gave the information. Information is true or false, regardless if the person who gave the information is well versed in a particular field.

For example, Greg says that getting too much sun on your skin may cause skin cancer. Tyler then responds, dismissing what Greg said because Greg is “not a doctor”.

Now does Greg not being a doctor change the fact that you may get skin cancer being exposed to too much sun? Of course not. However, Tyler decided to dismiss this information just because Greg is “not a doctor”. He could have at least researched what Greg told him, before deciding to dismiss it.

Summary: Appeal to accomplishment is nothing more than agreeing or disagreeing with what someone said based upon their credentials or personal experience, not if the information itself is correct. Obviously, this is not a good idea and making use of this logical fallacy will eventually cause you trouble.

Posted in General, Logical Fallacies, Society