Have you ever visited an online store you’ve never heard of in your life... Only to see its products have tens of thousands of glowing reviews?
Maybe you’re out of the loop and just stumbled upon something truly fantastic, but those reviews aren’t all as genuine as they seem.
You’ve experienced firsthand how critical online reviews are as a business owner. They can help boost SEO, bring in new customers, increase sales, and build trust with existing and potential customers.
But fake reviews, on the other hand, can do far more harm than good. They may mislead your customers, hurt your brand’s reputation, or even incur severe financial penalties.
(Plus, savvy customers aren’t fooled by fake reviews; they can spot them from a mile away!)
Review fraud is an increasingly common problem plaguing customers and businesses alike.
So what do you do when fake reviews start appearing? How can you tell if a review is fake, and what can you do to prevent it? And how can you make sure you never commit review fraud, either? Learn about review fraud and how to prevent it in your online business.
What is Review Fraud?
Online review fraud is exactly what it sounds like – it involves fake product or service reviews online. It typically occurs in one of two ways:
Fake positive reviews
Companies know that consumers rely on online reviews to help them decide what to buy, and many take a shortcut to take advantage of that fact. Some companies hire shady online sites to post fake five-star reviews to boost their ratings and deceive customers. Sometimes it’s just to compete with other legitimate businesses, and sometimes to defraud website visitors. But either way, buying fake reviews constitutes fraud, according to the FTC.
Fake negative reviews
Sometimes, fraudsters post fake reviews on a legitimate company site to send readers to phishing websites, redirect them to counterfeit replicas of the products they’re shopping for, or boost their business. In some cases, your competitors may even pay companies or fraudsters to post negative reviews on YOUR site to make their site look better in comparison.
Any fake online review that seeks to deceive or defraud your customers constitutes review fraud.
Why is Review Fraud Such a Problem?
Simply put, review fraud is problematic because it’s dishonest. Fake reviews can mislead customers, hurt your reputation, and cause you to lose trust in your audience – whether those fake reviews were purchased by you or written by fraudsters seeking to attack you and your customers.
If you’re considering buying reviews for your business, know that it’s not only manipulative – it’s also illegal. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) considers this a prohibited deceptive practice and can sue companies that seek to deceive customers with fake reviews. Knowingly purchasing or encouraging fake reviews may result in financial penalties.
But even if you have nothing to do with urging fake reviews, even allowing those reviews can still hurt your customers and your business. Some fraudsters leave fake reviews to potentially phish consumers reading the reviews by stealing their credit card info or getting them to purchase counterfeit products. All of which makes your products and brand more challenging to trust.
How to Identify Fake Reviews
Fake reviews may be pernicious, but they’re pretty easy to spot if you know what to look for.
- Look for patterns in the language used across reviews.
- Check the user’s review profile for copy-and-pasted comments or many reviews for the same product.
- Look for non-specific reviews.
- Search for repeat brand mentions, especially competitor brands
- Respond to all negative reviews. (It’s good business in general, but this can also open a conversation to help you understand why a negative review was posted and whether it is genuine.)
Of course, manually vetting each review to determine whether it’s legitimate can be very time-consuming. Filters in your review platform and device fingerprinting software like Fingerprint can help automatically flag suspicious users and reviews for you.
How to Prevent Fake Reviews
Every moment fake reviews remain up on your website can damage your brand’s reputation. If you’ve already noticed fake reviews on your site, delete them manually and report them to the FTC at www.ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
And even better than deleting fake reviews as they pop up? Having a plan in place for preventing fake reviews from ever getting approved.
On a company level, institute a firm policy against review fraud. Let your marketing team know buying fake reviews is not an option and that you’re committed to keeping all reviews genuine.
But the best way to prevent review fraud lies in your systems. Implementing a sign-up process where users must create an account before reviewing an item or service can provide valuable data to allow fraud prevention software to screen suspicious users before they can write a review.
Fingerprint’s powerful device fingerprinting technology has helped many eCommerce stores and online marketplaces catch even sophisticated fraudsters and protect against review fraud.
Case in point – a company in the P2P marketplace with 5M+ monthly unique visitors was struggling with review fraud. Since marketplace vendors are incentivized to collect as many reviews as possible, many would utilize fake reviews to inflate their ratings. Either by paying for services that would submit multiple fake positive reviews or by writing numerous reviews by creating multiple accounts. Using Fingerprint to combat review fraud resulted in a massive increase in identification accuracy and stopped over 500 fake reviews per day – even as users attempted to conceal their identity.
Are you interested in preventing fake reviews on your website? Use Fingerprint to protect against review fraud and other online or credit card fraud cases. Learn more here.