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Have you ever wondered if that glowing five-star review was too good to be true? You are not alone! Fake review factories exist and are infiltrating our shopping experiences.

How do they work?

A fake review factory is hired by a seller to boost one of their product’s ratings. The factories recruit individuals (you and me) through social media to purchase items from Amazon. Once the buyer leaves a stellar five-star review they are refunded in full. This activity goes undetected by Amazon.  In fact, this fake review would be displayed as “verified” by Amazon. The buyer is a real person purchasing a real product. Facebook group searches will uncover “rewards for reviews” groups totaling somewhere around 87,000 members. These people are happy to get free products in exchange for a fake review.

What is the big deal?

What came first, the chicken or the fake review? The stranger-based review system creates a negative incentive for companies to boost their reviews by any means available. Competition is fierce. There is simply no way to be noticed on Amazon without positive reviews. Fake review factories are the most explicit form of fake reviews, but they are not the only problem. A multitude of discount sites exist which companies use to build up their positive review status. They include sites like JumpSend, Snagshout, Vipon, RippleInfluence, and more. Most do not state that you must leave a positive review to get the discount. On the contrary, sellers usually offer the discount upfront with no assurance they will even receive a review. However, there is a reason these sites are successful. The implication exists that the buyer needs to leave a positive review in exchange for a deeply discounted product. This is despite Amazon’s attempt to curb this behavior by banning such reviews as of October 2016.

This may not seem like a big problem, but it truly is. 87% of consumers rely on positive reviews to help make their purchase decisions and only 3-10% of customers leave a review at all. ReviewMeta, a site that analyzes Amazon reviews, has seen an uptick in “unnatural reviews” and an increase in average product ratings as recently as June 2017. That means that more and more of the reviews you are seeing are either 100% fake or highly incentivized through deep discounts.

So what can I do?

As long as the fierce competition for our hard-earned dollars exists on platforms like Amazon, companies will be working to circumvent the system to give themselves a competitive advantage. Hope is not lost. Sites like ReviewMeta help you to weed through the fake reviews, but even that isn’t fool-proof. At Aqqaint, we still think the best way to get product recommendations is to ask the people you know. Most people trust friend and family reviews over reviews of strangers already, and we want to make that easy, fun, and trustworthy!


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