Consumer technology companies like Amazon, Yelp, and Airbnb are focused on providing an impeccable customer experience, and reviews are integral to that experience. Reviews from previous customers can signal trust and reliability (e.g., total number of reviews or average star rating), empowering first-time buyers or new customers in their decision-making. Millions of reviews are shared on platforms like Amazon for e-commerce products, on Airbnb for travel and hospitality, on Glassdoor for company and employment experience, and on Google for third-party businesses.
However, the internet has become rife with fake reviews. Fake reviews and inflated ratings provide a tainted picture of a product or service and are designed to trick customers away from or toward certain purchases. As these reviews are an important input factor for search and ranking algorithms, they can have a massive influence on product discovery and sales. This provides a strong incentive for bad actors to try to manipulate the system by improving the ratings of their products through fake reviews.
There is a booming market for fake reviews, which are purchased via multiple social media and community platforms. The problem is enormous - nearly four percent of all reviews are fake, translating into a global economic impact of USD 152 billion.
E-commerce companies like Amazon spend upwards of a billion dollars and employ tens of thousands of workers to combat online fraud and abuse. Some companies use sophisticated technologies including AI to detect and delete fake reviews, but their accuracy is limited (less than forty percent) and it often takes more than one hundred days to remove those reviews. During that time, fraudulent sellers can make strong short-term revenues and profits.
Apart from the short-term commercial losses, there is a longer-term problem; fake reviews erode customer trust and safety, causing customers to avoid online purchases. Catching fake reviews is therefore paramount for a majority of online marketplaces and businesses.
Characteristics of Fake Reviews
Fake reviews have several telltale characteristics. For instance, as they are based on a fraudulent experience with the product or service, fake reviews will often focus on a poor customer experience without specific details about that product or service.
Another sign is the repetition of positive or negative keywords and text. As it is difficult to fabricate a review, fake reviewers keep emphasizing certain keywords and details to paint a terrible customer experience. Such reviews accentuate extreme details without providing a balanced perspective.
Fake reviewers also excessively use emoticons and exclamation points in an attempt to appeal to the customers’ emotions. Genuine reviewers tend to focus more on information and provide thoughtful, actionable feedback for other customers about the product experience.
One clear giveaway is the reviewer’s name and avatar. Fake reviews are usually submitted using an account with a dubious username, avatar, or email address. If a reviewer seems like they could be illegitimate, check whether they have shared any reviews previously, how often, and for which products or businesses. Fake accounts are often created for one-time use, and fake reviewers can submit multiple reviews in a short span of time, sometimes on the same day.
Sometimes fake reviewers post a poor rating without any comments to describe their experience. Genuine reviewers take the time and effort to write useful feedback.
Spotting these characteristics can help you find many fake reviews, but scamsters are always devising more sophisticated techniques to replace those that have already been detected through algorithms, AI, or human reviewers.
One solution to this problem is fingerprinting technology, that can identify unique users of your website regardless of VPNs, cookie blockers, private browsing, or other tools. They use data including the browser and device used, usage patterns, IP addresses, and geolocation to create a unique identifier for site visitors, making it easier to spot users trying to hide their identity or committing fraudulent activity.
Fake reviews have undermined the revenue and growth of online sellers and small businesses. These reviews can boost the sales of a poor product by exaggerating its positive rating, or damage the sales of competitor products via negative reviews. While there are ways to catch these fake reviewers in the act, it’s an increasingly sophisticated scam and a headache for businesses.
Fingerprinting technology can help you find and remove fake reviews as well as protect your business from all types of online fraud. This helps ensure that your customers will have a safe and reliable online shopping experience.
Recently, the Government of India issued a draft framework of standards to counter fake reviews in order to reduce their prevalence on e-commerce platforms.
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