Amazon Flooded By ‘Fake Reviews,’ Consumer Report Says

Amazon preparing for Black Friday, 2014
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A report from the U.K. consumer group Which? said that Amazon’s website is being flooded by “fake five-star reviews” on products. The BBC says that the online retail giant is receiving top reviews for popular items such as smart watches and headphones but many of which are unverified – where there is no proof that the person submitting the review has purchased the product.

During its investigation, Which? said that after it searched for headphones on the site, it found that all of the results on the first page were for items that were from unknown brands. The source indicates that out of 12,000 reviews, around 87 percent were from unverified purchases.

In a report from The Guardian, Natalie Hitchins, the head of home products at Which?, said Amazon is “losing the battle against fake reviews,” adding that the company must do more to “purge its websites of unreliable” reviews and that customers need to be more vigilant when shopping online.

“To avoid being misled and possibly buying a dud product, customers should always take reviews with a pinch of salt and look to independent and trustworthy sources when researching a purchase.”

Such named brands with reviews investigated by the consumer group include Vogek, Aitalk, and Itshiny. Many of these products were given five-star reviews in a short span of time, which could indicate the reviews being posted were fake.

Around 71 percent of headphones had perfect ratings of five stars. The brand Celebrat had 439 reviews, all of which were marked five-star and unverified.

Amazon website shown on a person's laptop screen
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Reviews are a popular way for businesses and customers to research reliable information about products before they purchase. In the U.K. alone, online reviews can influence around £23 billion – around $30 billion – each year.

The U.S. website ReviewMeta, which analyses online reviews, said it is “shocked” at the number of reviews that are fake, adding that they were “easy to prevent.”

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According to Which?, ways to spot a fake review include filtering out unverified posts on Amazon, reading the full review rather than just the star rating, checking the date to see when the review was posted, and being wary of products that have hundreds of thousands of positive reviews.

Amazon said that it is utilizing automated technology to try and weed out any fakes. The company also said they have invested resources into protecting its review system, saying, “we know customers value the insights and experiences shared by fellow shoppers.”

Currently, Which? has been unable to receive any comments from the brands cited in their report.