How to spot fake reviews when you’re shopping online

Many consumers look at online reviews to figure out what products to buy or which services to get. But if you’re worried those glowing five-star reviews are fake, the experts at Consumer Reports say there are ways to figure out what’s authentic and what’s not.

After a bad experience with online reviews, Kay Dean took action.

“I don’t trust reviews anymore. In my personal experience, the reviews that I had relied on in selecting a medical provider were fake,” she said.

Dean created “Fake Review Watch” with her own YouTube channel and website to help create awareness and fight back against false online reviews.

“The public is been deceived and it’s a huge problem because consumer experiences are not matching those reviews,” she said.

In fact, research from Fakespot found that 42% of Amazon’s reviews were not real, so it’s important to know how to spot the fakes.

“One major sign that something fishy might be going on is when you see a bunch of very positive reviews all posted on the same day. Fake reviews can be grouped together, so it’s better to skip them,” said Consumer Reports Shopping Editor Samantha Gordon.

Another red flag is when you see similar wording or phrasing in multiple reviews. Several reviews from different users that have the same “Wow, this product changed my life!” may not be authentic.

“Anyone is allowed to leave reviews on Amazon, even if they didn’t buy the product,” warned Gordon. “So, look for reviews that have the ‘Verified Purchase’ tag. This means that the reviewer actually bought the product on Amazon.”

It may also help you to look at other reviews from the same user. Click on their profile, and if you see a pattern of five stars and similar language, those reviews may be fake or even paid.

And if you’re still not sure, check Fakespot -- which uses an algorithm to evaluate the quality of customer reviews. Paste a product URL into their analyzer and let your good judgment decide.

The FTC is trying to crack down on this practice with a new proposed rule that would make the act of creating, buying, or selling fake reviews illegal. Once the notices are published in the Federal Register, the public can submit their comments, which will be considered when deciding whether to implement the proposed rule.