Fake reviews: Tips from Which? on how to spot them

10 December 2020, 15:30

December is here and festivities are nearing which means buying presents. LBC has partnered with consumer champion Which? to give the top tips for spotting a fake review when shopping online.

Many of us rely on customer reviews to guide us through the many products online – however some unscrupulous sellers have muddied the waters with fake reviews.

They’re not always easy to spot and may appear to be written by genuine customers, but often there’s more to these reviews than meets the eye.

In some cases, sellers give their product to a five-star reviewer for free or refund them after the review is written. In other cases, fake reviews could be entirely fabricated by someone who has never even seen or used the product or service.

How do you spot fake product reviews? Which? expert explains
How do you spot fake product reviews? Which? expert explains. Picture: Getty

If it looks too good to be true…it probably is

A healthy degree of scepticism is a very useful tool for guarding against fake reviews.

If a product has an unusually high number of positive reviews relative to others in that category, it's perfectly reasonable to exercise caution.

Take extra care buying unknown brands

If you don't recognise the brand, check online to see if it has a legitimate-looking website with clear contact details so you can get in touch if anything goes wrong.

It's worth even trying to call or email the seller with a question, to see how quickly they respond.

Inspect the comments

Consider the following questions: Does the review have an extremely high percentage of five-star reviews? Does the review contain lots of pictures? Does the review include specifics about the experience with the product?

Watch out for suspicious language

If it reads like an infomercial, then it’s probably a fake review. Also look out for reviews written all in capitals, ones with odd formatting or ones which simply have no punctuation at all.

Are reviews about the actual product?

It's worth looking out for if there are reviews for entirely different products listed under the product you're looking at.

Check the less positive reviews

Negative reviews can be eye-openers. If you see consistent criticism of a specific quality, then that can be a warning sign. Look out for any evidence that reviews are incentivised with, for example, the offer of a gift card or a full or partial refund.

Watch out for admitted bias

Quite simply, if someone hasn’t read the book, used the product, or visited the location, then why are they reviewing it?

Check out what else the reviewers bought

You can almost always check to see what other reviews someone has left on products or services by clicking on their account. This should help you judge whether the review is real.

If they’ve bought many very similar items or a lot of totally unconnected items, and all the ratings are overwhelmingly positive, the reviewer might be getting the products for free in exchange for leaving good reviews.

Use an online tool

If you use all the above methods and you’re still not sure about the validity of the review, there are two online tools you can use to help you check for fake reviews.

Fakespot and ReviewMeta both allow you to copy and paste a product’s URL into the site. They then analyse the reviews for signs of fakery.

Read more: Which?’s top tips for online shopping

For thousands of expert, impartial and rigorous reviews that will help you shop smart, join Which?.