Debunking the world of incentivised reviews

Due to our increased reliance on technology and online shopping – now more than ever – our decisions are increasingly becoming swayed by reviews. Whilst it can be helpful to get a third-party perspective, can you be sure that these reviews are genuine? In a time where fake reviews are being openly sold on the internet, it can sometimes be difficult to decipher which reviews are real and which have been bought by the supplier.

How it works
In the past, companies have garnered five-star reviews in exchange for free goods. These are called ‘incentivised reviews’. Third-party sellers tried to stop this by introducing a number of preventative measures, but this only served to drive the business underground. Online forums and Facebook groups were created where companies requested that customers give them a positive review in exchange for a full refund of their product, a loophole which ensured there was a record of the item being purchased by the reviewer.

The scale of the problem
A recent Which? investigation revealed that at least 30,000 customer reviews have been removed from a popular online retail seller over the past two years, and it is expected that the total number of fake reviews out there is significantly higher.

Main offenders
From the categories looked at, the top offenders were cameras, headsets, headphones and earphones, smartwatches and portable speakers. A whopping 11% of the reviews for on-dash cameras were removed, whilst 10% were removed for action cameras and headsets. Whilst the focus was on technology in this study, fake reviews can be found across all retail sectors so it pays to be vigilant if you are relying on these to decipher whether you’re buying a quality product.

How to spot a fake

We look at some of the ways you can spot a fake review from the real deal: 

  • Look at the timing, if there are a lot of reviews in a short time frame, this may be a concern
  • Repetition of ‘I’ and ‘me’ and overuse of verbs
  • Look at the small details, if they’re trying too hard to set the scene, it could be a fake
  • Watch out for generic names and images
  • Delve deeper into the profile of the reviewer, how often do they post? Do they write similarly worded reviews across the board?
  • Reach out to the reviewer in question, a real reviewer is more likely to help further

Whilst we wouldn’t recommend you shun reviews entirely, customer reviews should only form a part of your decision. Remember, even if it isn’t fake, all reviews are subjective.