RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – Online reviews can be helpful, but how do you know if those reviews are legit — or if someone is manipulating that glowing five-star review to give their product a good rating?
That was a question CBS 17 asked after a viewer gave consumer researcher Steve Sbraccia a letter offering her a gift in exchange for a great review.
Before you clicked your mouse to order this online purchase, you probably read an online review or two.
Meredith Gallo of BestReviews (owned by CBS 17 parent company Nexstar) explained the importance of having an immaculate review.
“It’s very important,” she said. “You want to make sure the reviews you use are accurate and contain the most information.”
When a CBS 17 viewer received a letter from a company asking her to write a 5-star review in exchange for a $30 Amazon gift card, things looked a little fishy, especially as that Firm she warned not to “hang any pictures of this letter on the review.”
Sbraccia sent a copy of the letter to Amazon.
Spokesperson Nicole Pampe said, “Our policies prohibit the abuse of reviews, including offering inducements such as gift cards, to write positive reviews.”
she also said “We have identified the sender of the letter and are taking appropriate action.”
Penalties may include legal action.
She declined to cite details of the investigation, but said the retail giant tries to track down fake and tainted reviews, using “a combination of sophisticated technology and experienced investigators to analyze them before publication.”
Pampe added: “We continue to monitor all existing reviews for signs of abuse and act quickly when we find a problem.”
Amazon buyers often decide to buy a product because it has a high star rating.
Fake reviews corrupt the system, and Amazon says it investigates fake reviews using a variety of techniques it doesn’t disclose so the bad guys don’t know how they’re doing it.
There is Ways you can spot a fake review.
“If you look at reviews, there are a few red flags to stay away from and be careful with,” Gallo said.
- Lots of 5 star reviews with one/two word descriptions
- Reviews with misspelled words
- Customers’ Also Purchased section contains unrelated products
“If the other recommended products don’t make sense – like buying pool gear and this is a winter coat, there’s something fishy about it,” Gallo said.
Fake reviews are also illegal and the The FTC says it fines companies up to $43,000 per violation.
When looking at reviews for a product, don’t just go for a rave review.
Compare multiple reviews so you can make an informed decision.
If something doesn’t look right, do what CBS 17 did – report it.