How to spot a fake review

Fake reviews are helping to dupe thousands upon thousands of UK consumers out of their hard-earned money every day. Word-of-mouth personal recommendations have always been useful. But many of us are now turning more to online reviewers, we don’t know, to guide us when we’re buying goods and services. In fact:

  • 97% of people read reviews before making a purchase
  • The average UK household spends £900 a year after being influenced by online reviews
  • Over three-quarters of customers put as much faith in reviews online as they do personal recommendations

But all of this has created a new, big problem. Fake reviews.

The World Economic Forum has estimated fake online reviews cost the global economy a massive $152 billion a year. And it’s a problem that’s not going to go away easily – even with legislation in the UK, Europe, the USA, and worldwide being introduced to stop it.

However, if you know what to look out for when reading a review you can help protect yourself.

What is a fake online review?

To put it in simple terms, it’s fake advertising – from someone who either wants you to buy a product or not.

It’s even turned into a massive industry in its own right with companies paying to have fake reviews posted on their behalf. The fakes are getting harder to spot too as the industry becomes more and more sophisticated.

So where do you start? It may sound simple but make sure you read the review and don’t just trust the ratings. Multiple stars don’t mean a product is great or guarantee you’re not being misled. Look at what it’s saying, how it’s expressed and who has left the review.

Here are some tips on what to watch out for.

What's the review saying, and how?

Sounds too good, or bad, to be true? It probably is
Take a look at the middle-ground reviews and not just the best and worst ones. It’s here you’ll most likely find real thoughts and advice. Look at the most recent reviews too. You’ll possibly discover a mix of opinions in them that give you a better perspective on a product.

Lots of very positive or negative reviews all posted on the same day?
This is definitely worth keeping an eye out for, especially if they’re all from the same reviewer. Businesses paying for fake positive, or competitor damaging, reviews may tell writers to mention general things like the product’s price, smell, colour, etc. So, watch out for this as well.

Is it really short and not saying anything specifically about the product?
People generally write longer reviews if they’ve used a product and want to share their thoughts on it. So they’ll include very specific details or say why they’ve given the score they have.

if a review just uses stock phrases like ‘The most amazing thing that I’ve ever tried.’ it’s not telling you anything. Keep looking to find reviews that do.

Full of mistakes or it doesn’t sound like a real person?
If a review is full of spelling mistakes and bad grammar, be a little skeptical – at least.

Plus, if it sounds like a robot could have written it – perhaps one did. Try taking out the product name, for example, and swapping it for a totally unrelated one. Does it still make sense? A computer might be doing the same thing and posting review after review.

Research from Cornell University has shown fake reviews often include a lot of verbs and nouns and overuse ‘me’ and ‘I’ in them as well. Watch out for those.

Does the online review feature hyperlinks to other sites?
They could be trying to lure you away from finding poor reviews. Or a competitor might be trying to get you to their website and consider them instead. Even worse, you might get directed to an unprotected, dangerous website.

Does the product or brand name get repeated often?
Someone working for the company could be trying to push it up in search engine websites’ ranking pages, like Google’s, so it gets viewed a lot.

Is it in a foreign language?
Paid fake reviewers can post exactly the same review but in multiple languages so they get paid more. They’ll use different profile names too. If the website lets you translate reviews, check them. How likely is it two reviews would say the same thing but in different languages?

Who's saying it?

Check out things like the reviewer’s profile
Do they have accounts with other sites like Facebook? If not, be wary. And if there are a few numbers, most usually three, at the end of their username they could be a review-writing computer robot.

Where are they?
It’s probably unlikely someone in Hong Kong would be reviewing a fish and chip shop in Newcastle, for example

What else have they reviewed and why?
If they’ve reviewed lots of similar products, or different ones, and given them all top or bottom marks beware. They’re either very easily satisfied, excessively grumpy, or they could be a paid ‘serial reviewer’.

Are they biased?
Some companies send free products to reviewers to try and ask them to post a review. They’ll ask people to post videos and photos of their products being used as well. It doesn’t necessarily mean the review is fake. But genuine reviewers are usually upfront about getting freebies.

Help is at hand

There are several other ways to protect yourself from fake reviews. Here are a few:

Don’t read the fakes – look for verified reviews
Fake reviews are less likely to have come from verified buyers. Some unscrupulous companies can make it look like reviews have come from a verified buyer though. They can’t with Feefo. We’re an invite-only platform so you can be confident that every opinion on our website, and Feefo’s reviews on our clients’ sites, are genuine.

Think it’s fake? Check it online
There are several online tools you can use now, like, to check for fake reviews.

Look at the company and not just its products
A legitimate, respected company is far less likely to get involved in the business of fake reviews. It’s got too much to lose. If it’s a brand you don’t know, take a look at its website and contact details. And if it looks suspicious at all, avoid it.

You’re protected by law
You can cancel and return something you’ve bought online – especially if you think you’ve been duped into buying something by a fake review. To find out about your rights take a look at what Which? says.


Put an end to fake feedback

Feefo is an invite-only platform, meaning only verified customers can leave feedback for your business. Your competitors can’t pay for other people to leave fake reviews via Feefo, so you know that every opinion is genuine, helping you to improve your services and products, and make better business decisions.

To find out more about how Feefo works, check out our FAQs page.

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