Watch Out For Fake Amazon Reviews

fake-amazon-reviewsI’m a huge Amazon customer. I probably don’t spend as much as some people do, but, of all my shopping, I spend at least half of my money on there. My love for Amazon got so intense I had to cancel Amazon Prime.

When shopping on Amazon, I almost always buy products based on the reviews.  To me, a product with at least a 4.5 out of 5 is almost definitely a great product based on my experience. If reviews are this good, I’ll almost always buy the product without any further research.

If it’s a 3.5 or a 4.0 out of 5, I’ll consider buying, but only after reading some of the reviews to see why people aren’t giving 5’s. Below that, I probably won’t buy it at all and will seek alternatives instead.

I often shop exclusively on Amazon, so I won’t bother researching on other sites. Probably dumb on my part, but I just like the convenience. Now, I’m even more wary of that strategy.

Fake Reviews?

A few times I’ve felt like I’ve noticed sketchy stuff going on in the reviews. For example, some books seem to rack up 5-star reviews within a few hours of being released. “How can that be?” I had to think to myself. So I decided to do some investigating.

A Google search for the phrase “fake Amazon reviews” turns up about 38,000 results. Here are some of my findings:

  • This WSJ article is about reviews posted by a DeLonghi employee on her company’s own products. Turns out that she had posted not one but two 5-star ratings on separate espresso makers on Amazon. She and DeLonghi may not have been explicitly breaking Amazon’s rules, but, at the very least, it doesn’t say much for the legitimacy of the reviews found on there.
  • In this article from the New York Times, a freelance writer reveals she was paid $10 per review on Amazon. While she wasn’t required to give 5-stars, she was instructed to turn down assignments if she couldn’t give it that many. This article also points out that it’s not limited to Amazon but extends to sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and CitySearch, too.
  • Here’s another post on Engadget that alleges that a sales rep. for Belkin was also involved in trying to find people to write reviews for as little as $0.65 each.
  • The Consumerist is onto it, too.

Just to see how easy it was myself, I searched for “Amazon review” on Fiverr and got about 280 offers for positive Amazon ratings in exchange for just $5.

I didn’t come across any hard data on how positive ratings affect sales, but various sources said simply that products with higher volumes of positive reviews tend to sell more. That’s no surprise to me.

Lesson Learned

Amazon is trying to cut down on the fake reviews, but I have to imagine they’ve got an uphill battle on their hands. There’s seemingly not much on their site to automatically filter out fake reviewers. While I imagine they do catch some, it seems easy to still slide through their system.

I’ll probably still judge products on Amazon based on the ratings, but I guess I’ll have to be more careful and skeptical than before.

I guess all that’s left to say is the classic phrase: Buyer beware!

Do you buy based on reviews at Amazon? Were you aware of fake ones?

$ $ $ $

photo from freelancer:com


  1. I actually wasn’t aware of fake reviews before. I do read reviews sometimes but only out of interest. I usually have researched the product itself before I go to buy it anyways. Reviews are just a bonus.

  2. matthew mosher says

    This is why I not only look and number of stars but also at number of reviews on both Amazon and Yelp.  I feel like it would be a lot easier for an obscure product to have some fake reviews if it only has 6 reviewers.  Where as even if a product with 120 reviewers has some fakes, I can’t imagine it being a significant detractor.

  3. Heck yeah.  There are companies you can hire that will improve your overall rating by flooding your items with postivie reviews.  I’ve heard they have computer software that can detect fake reviews.  They say real reviews have a lot of verbs and fake ones have a lot of nouns.  Interesting….

    I’m an amazon lover too and put less stock in the reviews than you do.  In fact, if I’m researching an item I usually only read negative reviews.  I think you learn a lot more about the product from those who give it one star than from those who give it 5.  If the negative reveiws aren’t really that bad, or worse, from people who haven’t even used the product then I ignore them.

    For example; someone will say something like.  “Box was all smashed when it arrived and I had to return it… one star!”  Well, jeeze that’s not really a bad review of the item. 

    I also take into account how many reviews an item has, if it’s less than about 20 then it’s not a very good sample and I’m more cautious.  Whereas, if an item has 455 reviews and it’s 4.5 stars then I don’t even bother reading… it’s 4.5. 

    Geeze, I should just write my own post about it….

  4. I generally check the bad reviews to see what the problems are. If there are real problems, they should show up there. $5 for a short review seems like a good way to make some extra cash…

    • I’m hearing that from a few people now. Maybe that’s the better approach.

      Haha good point. I’ve thought about Fiverr, but you really only get $4 per gig and it seems like people in other countries are able to offer services so cheaply that it’s really a race to the bottom in pricing.

  5. I remember that Belkin fiasco.  Decided back then I’ll never ever purchase a Belkin product.

    Some reviews just by looking at it you can tell it is fake, but no way to prove it.

    Astroturfing is a despicable practice.  

  6. I’ll throw out the high and the low, and tend to focus on 2 and 3 star reviews.  I’ve also seen some one-star reviews that seem to be reactive rather than rational. 

  7. I also heard that Yelp reviews can be bought, and business owners can pay to have negative reviews removed..any insights on this?

    • I’ve  heard of that, too, for Yelp and there have been a few stories on that. Maybe even some lawsuits, too. If you Google it I’m sure you’ll find what I’m talking about.

    • MarkWelch says

      Yes, sites like Fiverr feature folks who will post an Amazon or Yelp review, or rate reviews as helpful or unhelpful — not just to boost ratings for one product, but to push down ratings for competitors’ products. 

  8. Honest Ron says

    How naive can people be!  ….All advertising is a fake review; it’s a fact of life as we know it in today’s world.

    •  @Honest Ron I totally disagree. There are plenty of real reviews and great products available. Not all people or companies are dishonest.

    • MarkWelch says

       @Honest Ron Like Paul, I disagree. I’ve posted dozens of honest reviews on Amazon, all because I want to share my experiences with the community, and I trust reviews which seem genuine.  But I’ve learned not to rely on the raw star ratings, especially for items with only a few reviews, and I’m certainly aware that unethical folks can create fake reviews that make a bad product appear good, despite the presence of accurate negative reviews. 

  9. I recently bought a Mr. Beams motion sensor stairway light on amazon that got 4.5 stars. In my opinion it should have gotten 2 stars at the most. I couldn’t believe all of the glowing reviews. Not only that but I did a video review and got an unbelievable response from someone who I can only assume was affiliated with the company because they didn’t address any of the issues I brought up and basically just ridiculed my entire review without any substance whatsoever. I’m extremely skeptical now.  Thanks for the post.

  10. AtxGrrl85 says

    It’s easy to weed out the Amazon fake reviews. Most reviewers have either just that ONE review, or other many reviews, all posted on the same day (or near the same day) and most all given 5 stars. I’ve found a lot of the reviewers of health products who give it 5 stars (like diet pills), will review a ton of other health products and give them ALL 5 stars. Don’t fall for it.

    • MarkWelch says

      I do wish that Amazon would include the “number of reviews” as well as the “helpful score” for each reviewer shown.

    • Agreed – it’s usually relatively easy to weed out the fake reviews. I was completely aware that this problem exists, but I still trust reviews, mainly because I look at NEGATIVE reviews in order to determine if I want to buy a product/visit a restaurant, etc. If the things people are complaining about wouldn’t bother me, then I would usually go through with the purchase. I don’t think negative reviews are gamed as much as positive ones.

  11. MarkWelch says

    Amazon’s review system, flawed as it is, is much better than Barnes & Noble’s system, which allows anonymous wordless reviews, and is littered with spam and graffiti.

  12. MarkWelch says

    Amazon’s review system, flawed as it is, is much better than Barnes & Noble’s system, which allows anonymous wordless reviews, and is littered with spam and graffiti.

  13. Try looking up Livvy couch ‘olivia’ who wholeheartedly reviews ‘hama’s’ products. There is a tread about it on moneysavingexpect

    Here is an example of Massive Fake Reviews on Amazon, exposed on the seller forum.

    J-Tech Digital 

  15. I do buy partly based on reviews and in the case of books, what I see on books that I can “Look Inside”.  I’d prefer that Amazon make an effort to cut down on fake reviews.  At first I thought this would be difficult, but consider the following 2-step process. 
    1) Amazon adds a popup when you preview your review stating that being paid to write a review is against their terms of service and that if it was determined you were paid for this review then ALL your reviews could be deleted from the system
    2) Amazon employees go hire a bunch of reviewers.  When the reviewers pronounce the job done and provide the Amazon userid used, whoosh……  many paid fake reviews are flushed out of the system. 
    People who currently make a living writing fake reviews will find another line of work (I think). 
    I outlined this in a recent blog post at:

  16. Just some clarification on why a book may legitimately get many reviews within hours: authors and publishers send pre-release copies to reviewers and others who read the book but are unable to post reviews until the release date. When the release date arrives many of those people post the reviews right away. Clearly there are fake reviews on Amazon; however, I wouldn’t let the timing of postings automatically tip you off.

  17. theno1katzman says

    holy shit this is so true. there is no proof that the person actually bought the item they are reviewing. amazon needs to install that in the system so that people who haven’t bought it can’t review. another problem is that people tend to review right away and then forget to go back later and update in case the product falls apart. With many companies outsourcing production over seas, you get many times horrible products. I always go back and review months to years later and let people know that it’s still working or not.

  18. JaredJeffers says

    It’s easy to choose which reviews are legitimate on Amazon. If the review doesn’t have an “Amazon Verified Purchase” label on the review, don’t even read it.

Speak Your Mind


Read previous post:
Spruced Up: Countdown to Christmas Edition

Here's a shoutout to my favorites of the week: So Over Debt - It's Official: I'm a Spendaholic in Remission...