Have you fallen for a fake online review? Here’s how to avoid them

A man sits staring at laptop, frustrated.

Customer reviews can be helpful when shopping online. In fact, a recent Reviews.org survey found that a staggering 96% of Australians read reviews before buying something online and a further 86% want to know what experience other people have had at a restaurant or business, before they consider visiting.

The question is though, just how reliable are online reviews?

More than 50% of those surveyed said they believe they have fallen for a fake review. A further 28% said they don’t trust reviews at all, while 26% failed to differentiate between fake and legitimate reviews.

How to spot a fake review, tips from ACCC

Reading online reviews can be a helpful way to gauge how good quality a product is or what kind of service a business offers. The trick is to know how to spot a bogus review from a genuine review written by an actual customer or patron.

A spokesperson from watchdog ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) urged shoppers to beware of fake reviews, saying “There are various ways in which online reviews can be manipulated.” For example, they say a business may post fake positive reviews or remove negative ones. Some businesses may even offer incentives to customers to post positive reviews.

Some tips ACCC gave to spotting a fake review were:

  • Look for reviews on multiple websites. ACCC recommends seeking out multiple sources when searching for reviews, such as third party websites and reviews from experts. ACCC third party reviewers tend to follow stricter guidelines when it comes to quality assurance.
  • Testimonials may not always be trustworthy. Ever read a testimonial on a company’s own website? The ACCC says these may not be completely trustworthy, as there is often an incentive involved. For example, it says some companies may offer customers 10% of their next order in exchange for a five star review.
  • Be on the lookout for patterns. The watchdog says there are a few patterns to be on the lookout for when vetting reviews. These include whether all or a lot of the reviews were posted on the same date, whether the reviews are written in the same tone or use similar vocabulary and whether or not the author has left reviews for other products and services.
  • Overwhelmingly positive reviews can be fishy. Online retailers may control which customer reviews are published and which are not. The ACCC says if a company has thousands of positive reviews with three or more stars, there is a possibility that it has deleted negative reviews to inflate the overall rating.

So to summarise: reviews can be a useful way to suss out whether or not a product or service is right for you. Contributing a review can also be a helpful way to provide others with some insight into something you have purchased or a place you have been.

The only thing to remember is to be on the lookout for reviews that seem a bit too good to be true. Head to Mozo’s life and money hub to read more articles like this, including stories about rising scams in Australia during the pandemic.