By Jason Cohen
As wonderful as the internet can be, it also lies to us every day. Fake reviews—seemingly legitimate reviews created by the seller or someone paid by them—are becoming harder to spot. We now make more and more of our purchases online, so if you’re not careful, fake reviews can end up costing you serious money.
The good news is that there are solutions. Though Amazon and other e-commerce sites have been hesitant to wade into identifying these reviews, others have rushed in to do the work for them. Here’s how to tell the difference between real and fake reviews.
How to Spot a Fake Review
Amazon added a Verified Purchase label that accompanies legitimate reviews to combat fake reviews. This will tell you that Amazon confirmed the reviewer actually purchased the item they are reviewing.
How to Report a Fake Review
If you happen across a review you believe is fake, you can report it to the e-commerce website and mark it for investigation and possible removal.
Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart make it easy by asking you to click the report/flag button next to the review. However, this simple system doesn’t allow for depth or context.
Steam, on the other hand, allows you to write a message. Just click on the review’s Recommended/Not Recommended banner to view the full review. Click the flag icon and enter your message.
Other websites require you to log into an account before you can do anything about a particular review. You must sign in to your Yelp account before a report option is even made available on the platform. Meanwhile, TripAdvisor will let you start a report, but you must sign in with your email, Facebook, or Google account to see it through.
Sites including eBay and Facebook Marketplace allow you to report sellers, but currently, you can’t flag a review as fake. Some websites don’t even provide clear ways to report abuse of any kind.
The online tool Fakespot rates how reliable product pages are on Amazon, Best Buy, Google, Sephora, Steam, TripAdvisor, Walmart, and Yelp. Fakespot’s algorithm looks at both review and reviewer, analyzing language, previous reviews, and purchase history to determine trustworthiness.
Just copy the URL of the page in question and paste it onto the Fakespot website and it will investigate the link. Once it’s done, Fakespot spits out a grade that should tell you whether the page has reliable information.
It also filters out reviews considered fake in order to create a more reliable product rating. This grade won’t tell you if the product in question is actually good or bad, but it will allow you to make a more informed decision.
Extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari allow online shoppers to analyze a webpage with the push of a button. Fakespot is also available as an app for iOS and Android, where pages can be shared through a web browser directly to the app for analysis.
ReviewMeta works pretty much the same way as FakeSpot, but it simplifies the grading process as an Amazon-only analyzer. Like with Fakespot, you copy and paste the URL in question, but ReviewMeta doesn’t hand out a grade for the webpage. Instead, it eliminates the reviews it deems unreliable and replaces Amazon’s aggregate rating with one from ReviewMeta.
This tool offers the unique ability to tweak ReviewMeta’s algorithm. After the website analyzes a page, you can go into the grading mechanics and adjust how categories are weighted. The site also provides detailed breakdowns — complete with graphs — for the factors contributing to the adjusted rating.
Add the browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Edge to quickly analyze a webpage and receive a Warn/Pass/Fail grading depending on the results. A mobile app for iOS and Android also exists to help analyze pages from your phone.
The Review Index
The Review Index is an online tool focused on aggregating tech product ratings on Amazon and Steam, but it can still determine if a product’s score has been boosted by fake reviews. There are Chrome and Firefox extensions that make the process easier.
Paste the URL into the site and The Review Index breaks the product out into different categories based directly on the words it parsed from reviews. At the same time, The Review Index runs a spam test to ensure that the reviews are authentic, providing a Pass/Fail grade at the end.
Created by researchers at Cornell University, Review Skeptic works a little differently by using machine learning to identify fake hotel reviews. It’s a simple online tool that will give you a quick true or false indicator when you pop a URL into the website. Review Skeptic claims it has 90 percent accuracy.
How to Spot Fake News Online
It’s not just product reviews that you need to worry about being duped by. These browser plug-ins and online tools can help you figure out how to detect fake news sites.