PHOENIX — If you're looking for a new restaurant. buying something online or hiring a contractor, you likely rely on customer reviews. But where there is money, there is fraud.
And in this case, it means fake reviews coming from people who were never customers.
Amazon, Yelp, and Google all say they have the ability to weed out the fakes. But the United Kingdom just opened an investigation into Amazon and Google, concerned "they have not been doing enough to combat fake reviews."
And last year, Harvard Business Review research discovered "a large and thriving market" for the fraud.
The review found people were being recruited in private Facebook groups to buy products. They would be reimbursed for the product cost and get a $5 to $10 commission if they left a 5-star authentic-looking review.
Ken Colburn with the Data Doctors says fake reviews are not always easy to spot. Beware of those reviews that are all only negative or positive.
"I don't know any company that executed 100% with 100% of customers," Colburn says.
Also check for unusual wording, very short reviews and those that are too general, not pointing out anything specifically good or bad. If you want to be even more thorough, check out the reviewer.
"Do a little research on what other reviews this person has placed," Colburn says.
Be suspect if they left many reviews for the same industry or on the same day and at places across the country. If the reviewer has a picture, check online to see if it's just a fake stock photo.
There are also free tools you can load in your browser that scan for fakes.
Colburn recommends Fakespot for sites like Amazon, ebay, Walmart, Yelp, Tripadvisor, and more.
For tech gadgets, the reviewindex can analyze Stream and Amazon.
And ReviewMeta only analyzes Amazon reviews.