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How to spot fake reviews when online shopping


Studies show people will be doing more online shopping this year than in years past, and a fake review could trick you into buying a product that is not what it seems.

We're talking about those gold stars next to a product or seller on Amazon, Google, or even Facebook Marketplace.

Online sales this November and December are forecast to surge 33% year over year to a record $189 billion, according to statistics from Adobe Analytics.

Tanner Doerr, a Jefferson City resident, admits he fell for fake reviews and ended up losing more than $1,000 on Facebook Marketplace.

"They had all five-star ratings," Doerr said. "That was my first clue that, 'okay this is not real,' but I still went along with it."

Experts say these are the top 3 ways to spot fakes:

  • Check the reviewer
  • Look for consistencies
  • Examine their use of language
Scrolling reviews on Google Maps.

According to a Brightlocal survey, 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses. The study found that 86% of customers cannot always spot fake reviews, meaning that they are likely to fall victim to false advertising.

COVID-19 guidelines have encouraged people to shop more online this holiday season. In turn, online fraud has become more prevalent.

A Better Business Bureau spokeswoman said companies have an incentive to fake good reviews.

"Well, studies show that a company that may have more reviews on their website compared to zero reviews may end up getting more business. So, there could be a temptation to create fake reviews," Michelle Gleba said.

Options are available to spot and counter the fakes, though.

Fakespot is a Google Chrome extension that automatically checks reviews and sellers in real-time as you shop on websites like Amazon, Walmart and eBay and can tell you if the product or review you're looking at is real or fake.

Sadoul Khalifa, the founder of Fakespot, says these fake reviews and reviewers are evolving as shoppers expose their tricks.

"I mean this year has been really unique in so many ways but it also has exploded the popularity for e-commerce," Khalifa said. "We don't have many people in our corner that are actually protecting consumers from scams and from untrustworthy information which we've seen in the last couple of years."

"Whether we're talking about fake news, fake comments, fake up votes, fake likes, fake reviews, it's a widespread problem and I would say it's an epidemic proportion, a play on the pandemic that we have this year and it's actually, coinciding at the same time," Khalifa said.

Experts say don't rely on one review source when evaluating a product. Check multiple sources before making an online purchase.

  • Submit an online review complaint to BBB here.
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Zach Boetto

Zach Boetto anchors the weekend morning and weekday 9 a.m. & noon newscasts for ABC 17. You can find up-to-the-minute information on Zach’s social media, @ABC17Zach on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


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