Fake Online Reviews

In the old days, if we wanted to get a recommendation for something, we would talk to our friends and acquaintances (people we know, but not well). These days, we go to the Internet. If you want to know about a business before you visit or about a product before you buy, you may look at online reviews, written opinions posted on the Internet.

Online reviews have become a huge influence in the global marketplace (world of buying and selling). Good or bad reviews, for example, can make or break (make successful or unsuccessful) a new restaurant, product, or hotel. It’s not unusual for businesses to post positive reviews about their own business, and even write unfavorable (negative) ones about their competitors (business competing for the same customers). The savvy (knowledgeable) customer knows that this happens and ignores a certain number of glowing (very positive) or very negative reviews.

Weighing (deciding what is useful and what isn’t) online reviews has become harder, however, because writing fake (false; untrue) online reviews has become a business. There are now companies that a book author (writer) or business owner can pay to get fake positive reviews. One company will give you 20 positive reviews for about $500 and 50 reviews for $1000.

Major online sellers do try to spot (find) fake reviews by doing linguistic (related to language) analysis. For example, if the same string of words (words in the same order) appear in multiple reviews, that’s a dead giveaway (an easy way to tell). If an anonymous (without showing one’s real identity) reviewer only writes one glowing review, that may also be a fake review.

A recent National Public Radio story gave some tips on how to spot fake reviews. Some of these suggestions are fairly obvious (clear; apparent), but may be useful as a reminder.

  1. Don’t just look at the reviews on one site. Look for the same product or business on different websites.
  2. Many sites give special status to people who are longtime reviewers or who are verified (confirmed to be real). Their reviews are more trustworthy (reliable) than anonymous ones.
  3. Don’t pay as much attention to how many stars a business gets. Instead, look for specific information about a visitor’s experience.
  4. Read reviews for specific, helpful information that fake review writers or business owners might not think of, such as how late the swimming pool stays open at a hotel.
  5. Pay attention to what the majority of reviews say, rather than outliers (an opinion that is very different from the majority).

Do you read online reviews, and if so, for what types of products, services, or businesses? In your opinion, what are good tip-offs (pieces of evidence) of a fake review?

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: Stipula fountain pen from Wikipedia

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13 Responses to Fake Online Reviews

  1. Peter says:

    Dear Lucy ,
    I never read any reviews about any thing. I don’t trust their judgment. Besides, people view things differently. What looks dreadful to you ,may look interesting to me.
    I take my chances. I always do
    It is like gambling.
    Tell me what people did before the age of information. They simply asked around to gather some simple info about the place they were going or the items they were purchasing. I do the same. I ask people I know if they did what I wanna do already.
    Word of month is everything in this business

  2. Dan says:

    Hello everyone.

    I am one of those guys that when I need to buy something I already know what to get

    Said that though, I use online rewiews all the time as well.
    I find that really helpful.

    I have, for istance just bought my first smartphone and I have looked up at reviews to see what model to get.

    Use them when I need to get a new video game or book.. now that I think about it I use them a lot.

    Really! they get paid for writing down fake reviews, I did not know that. Unbelievable!

    NPR Great Radio, love it.

    Thanks, have a good day

  3. HILARIO says:

    FAKE REPUTATIONS.- Before, what it was fake around the popularity of pages and now that what is fake is reputation. It was like that they were building a page-ranking through artificial external links towards a web site and now it is about fake in reputation by buying positive or negative comments. Both the page in rank or the social network positioning, in a broad way, they mean profit prospects for a company, we’re talking about business, advertisment and return on investment, so is not surprising that community managers are using those inorganics reviews as shorten paths to obtain their results, and that comments, either positives or negatives, organically posted, and later review-makers, can be difficult to show up in such variety and quantity as to make a meaningful review, and in my opinion there are not good tip to detect manipulation if they have been made in a professional way.

  4. Vito says:

    If I need some advise about what I’m planning to purchase I usually avoid online reviews and ask people whom I trust and rely on for certain information.
    Always a pleasure to read your articles, Jeff and Lucy.
    Thank you so much for what you are doing for us.
    Your dedicated fans.

  5. parviz says:

    Dear Lucy,
    Thanks for your interesting topics. As always, fascinating and informative.

    I have a trauma about reading online reviews, ever since, I had a bad experience for buying a new kind of Glaces which enabled me watch 3D TVs.
    Now when I want any sort of recommendation, I usually seek my friends’. because they give me first hand experience about everything.
    I never trust internet reviews, nor online buying.
    I think it works for me better.
    to your success,

  6. Betty says:

    Dear Lucy

    Thanks for this very informative article and for introducing some even more informative resources to us.

    I am sorry I do not have much time to write here recently. Actually no energy neither.

    However, I never miss reading every one of our friends’ messages.

    Thank you everyone for all the interesting messages you posted in this wonderful website.

    The reason why I did not have enough time to write here was I had been spending time writing my own speeches for my speakers club which you told us about in your Learning Guides.

    I hope people do not think I am paid to say good things about the Learning Guides which we can get by becoming a member of this website.

    Hand on heart, I can confidently said that people who say they want to learn English but rather spend their money on something other than the Learning Guide is denying themselves a good chance of real improvement.

    In addition, I bought a Business course from this website about two years ago. Everything from the course (all the audio files and the pdf file of all the transcripts) are stored in my membership account.

    This is the only website that keeps my learning materials permanently for me.

    What my teachers tried to teach me when I was little had gone. What I bought from here such a long time ago is not only kept in my own computer, it is kept in Jeff and Lucy’s website as well. I can access to them anywhere in the world at any time.

    I have always wanted to properly thank Jeff and Lucy for offering good products and good after sales service, but I did not have time to do so.

    Finally, please let me say my sincere thanks to all our teachers, Lucy, Jeff and Warren for holding my hand in my English learning journey.

    Best regards

    Betty 🙂

  7. Dan says:

    Hello Betty,

    It’s a pleasure and also encouraging knowing that you read us. That pushes me to do better.

    I wonder if you are going to make that speech in English or your mother tongue?

    And, If I am allowed to ask; how is your doughter doing in CA?

    Thanks and have a good weekend.

  8. Peter says:

    Dear Betty ,
    As I was skimming your comment ,my eyes spotted sth like preparing for an speech in one of those clubs.
    I wouldn’t do it.
    I used to go to one of those clubs way back. Back then ,I would do it like an improv show. I would go up in front of the audience and started talking on any subject they asked me to. That would be way more helpful. Like what I m doing here. U see,I see a new post. I read it. Right after i m
    Done reading ,I pour down my thoughts here in one or two minutes ,even less, without any pause. Trust me ,that way you push your brain to think in English.
    Writing is different ,I spend hours writing an assay or report.
    But we are trying to grasp a sense of English language here.
    It doesn’t work that way.
    Time yourself writing
    Always time yourself
    Push the boundaries sis
    I say because I care


  9. Betty says:

    Hi Dan

    Thank you for your message. Yes, I do read everyone’s messages. It is through reading all the messages I learn more about something in different countries.

    Thanks for asking about my speeches. It is in English. I do not need to improve speaking Cantonese Chinese, I can speak it OK. It is English speaking that I desperately need to improve.

    I thought if I join the club I could improve my English speaking skill.

    After I joined, I learned that every speech should deliver a meaningful and valuable message.

    Also, I needed to write the speech first before I can speak it.

    Before I can write the speech, I need to have a lot of idea about what to say.

    I have been spending lots of time on researching for any topic that I wanted to talk about.

    Via the research, I discovered a lot of things that I did not know before. For example, Mr Obama, the President of U.S. had to rely heavily on his teleprompter. He could not speak well without the help of a teleprompter. I was very surprised. I thought he was a very clever lawyer. Usually a clever lawyer has got very good speaking skills.

    Sorry, I digressed so much.

    Yes, thank you also for asking about my daughter.

    She is studying in a college in L.A. and she tells me that the sky is so blue in L.A. That’s why Jeff always says it is beautiful there.

    She said the teachers there are awesome. The English was quite hard to start with. I think she only needs to work harder.

    Thank again for asking, Dan. I think you should travel to the states so that you can see it yourself. I want to see Minnesota if I have a chance next time.

    For my next speech I will talk about New York. I have to choose words that will stimulate the audience’s imagination so that their minds will follow my story and they will feel themselves in New York.

    Good training in English writing.

    See you again.

    Best Regards and a good weekend to you too.

    Betty 🙂

  10. Wang says:

    Hey Betty, You had just told about a club that Dr.Lucy introduced us in a Learning Guide. Could you tell me a little about that club and which Learning Guide was it in? thank you for your time

  11. Betty says:

    Hi Wang

    Thank you for your interest in finding more about the Club. Please google “Toastmasters International” and you will find “toastmasters.org”.

    I am very happy I find a very good toastmasters club in Hong Kong. I noticed that some Hong Kong people join a number of clubs in order to improve quicker or because one club is not enough for them. I am not going to do that, one good club is enough for me.

    We have visitors/guests visiting our club from time to time, they are just visitors from mainland China to Hong Kong and they turned up to spend the two hours with us and some even join our self-paid dinner after the meeting. Life is good when you are with good people.


    I extract part of my original comment here for you:

    “Thanks again, Lucy and Jeff, for I have gained a lot more than I hope for from your learning guides. The GLOSSARY “to join” in the Learning Guide for ESLPOD 753 has pointed me to a very important place where I can improve my Spoken English much faster (If I can find the time)”.

    In ESLPOD 753, the GLOSSARY has the following for us to learn:

    to join – to become part of a group or organization

    * Suzie joined Toastmasters because she wanted to become a better public speaker.

    I am surprised how ignorant I was that I did not know about this organization. There are 46 Toastmasters Club in Shanghai, China alone.

    Now I know why I have wasted decades and unable to improve my English speaking skill. But better late than never, I am determined to join one.

    A quote from the Toastmasters International’s website:

    “Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. Today, our membership is 270,000 strong. These members improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 13,000 clubs that make up our global network of meeting locations.
    Membership in Toastmasters is one of the greatest investments you can make in yourself”.


    For original comment,
    Please see January 2012 Blog “Help Us Win a Macmillan Love English Award for 2011”
    Comment #23, Betty Says:
    January 13th, 2012 at 5:20 pm


    Wang I think you helped me before in telling me how to submit comments successfully by refreshing the CAPTCHA Code. Am I right?

    Nice talking to you.

    Best Regards

    Betty 🙂

  12. Wang says:

    Hey Betty, you must be a very kind girl! Thank you for your useful replying…

    Here in my country, we have a run by Yankees coffee shop where my peers could come and practice our speaking skill with native speakers…There is also a American House which are keeping under control by America Embassy! You are absolutely right, Life is good when we are around the good persons!

    Have a nice day!

    Best regards

  13. Katrin says:

    While I was reading all these comments, I forgot about the topic of this post, haha! A lot of useful information. I’ve never heard about Toastmasters. And I even found 6 in my city, it was very surprising for me! I might visit one next weekends, if I can get enough courage up:)
    Turning back to ‘Fake Reviews’ I’m always interested in negative opinions about some specific features of this product or some defects. It can be very helpful sometimes to spot the pitfalls unnoticed earlier.

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