With fierce competition between online sellers, there is a growing marketplace for fake reviews, especially from third-party sellers.

According to a study published in the journal “Marketing Science,” it is not uncommon for product marketers to purchase fake online reviews, resulting in five-star ratings on popular e-commerce sites like Amazon (think the products you order off Amazon but are shipped or sold from someone different).

To the untrained eye, identifying fake reviews takes more work. You need to know what to watch for to protect yourself and your hard-earned dollars from being deceived. To help you spot fake reviews on e-commerce sites as you do your holiday shopping, here are six red flags to look out for:

1. High Volume of Five-Star Reviews

Genuine consumers will have varying feelings about a product, making a unanimous five-star rating extremely unlikely. Even if a product is excellent, real reviewers may take away a point for a color variation or shipping delay. A good review will also include objective pros and cons of a product, while a fake review may only include glowing praise. When reading reviews, look for verified reviewers to confirm that they bought and paid for the product.

2. Generic Reviews With Vague Details

Short reviews with generic titles and vague praise, such as “Great product!” or “Awesome!” are a red flag to watch out for. Authentic reviewers who take time to share their experiences tend to provide practical feedback to help other consumers with their purchase decisions. One- or two-word reviews with no explanation or description are likely bogus, and you should take them with a grain of salt.

3. Similar Wording

When reading through online reviews, pay attention to the vocabulary. Repetitive expressions or phrases and repeated brand or product mentions could mean the thoughts are from unverified buyers. If the reviews sound like a commercial or press release, there is a good chance they are fakes.

4. Poor Grammar and Spelling

Product marketers who use fake testimonials outsource their reviews to content mills overseas, which produce the written testimonials for profit. Many writers employed by these content mills are non-native English speakers, resulting in questionable spelling and grammar. When reading through customer reviews, pay attention to the quality of the writing. If most reviews have spelling mistakes, typos, and grammatical errors, they could be phony.

5. Timing of Reviews

Artificial testimonials tend to be published in a short period, especially when they give a five-star rating. Some products may also receive an influx of positive reviews around popular sale times, such as Black Friday. When looking for genuine reviews, it is helpful to sort by date to spot testimonials that may have been part of a paid campaign or incentive.

6. Unrelated Product Recommendations

Product recommendations on e-commerce sites provide consumers with a better user experience when making purchase decisions, but they are also helpful for spotting fake reviews. Product recommendations are driven by algorithms that show buyers relevant products to boost sales. However, tread carefully when these “shoppers also bought” suggestions are unrelated or irrelevant. It could signify that these reviewers are not verified buyers, meaning their product experiences and critiques are fake.

Online shopping provides consumers with many benefits, including convenience, more variety, better prices, and no sales pressure. But fake reviews do remain a drawback. By being more aware of false testimonials and how to spot them, you’ll reduce your chances of being duped by a fake review and buying a crummy product. You’ll also be able to report suspicious reviews to protect other shoppers from being fooled.

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