Fault In The Stars

Why You Can’t Always Trust Online Reviews

You’ve done your homework. That new pair of trail runners got a near-perfect five-star rating over on that Big Conglomerate site. Is it time to click “Buy Now”? Perhaps not…


In February 2019, the FTC successfully brought its first case using fraudulent, paid Amazon reviews to falsely advertise an online product. In this case, the offending company paid a third-party company to give five-star reviews for their weight loss product.

In 2015, Amazon went after 1114 fraudulent users who were posting fraudulent reviews via the freelance site Fiverr. Even with efforts such as these, it would be nearly impossible for Amazon to remove every single fake review from a platform that large. “Buy Now” at your own risk. 

Another way to game this universe is found with real buyers being paid for fake reviews. In 2019, one woman began a side hustle that resulted in hundreds of free Amazon products, worth tens of thousands of dollars. The woman in this case bought over $15,000 of Amazon products and was then reimbursed by the sellers for five-star reviews. These types of reviews are even given greater weight as they are considered ‘verified purchases’.

Some reviewers sign on to accept money or free products for fake reviews.

It is a constant uphill battle to trust any given review on such a large, anonymous, profit-driven platform. 

The issue goes beyond Amazon. In 2016, Sunday Riley Skincare settled with the FTC over fake reviews posted on Sephora’s website for several years. In this case, the CEO of the company instructed employees to create multiple gmail accounts and post false praise for their products. They were also instructed to “dislike” negative reviews, which would eventually cause those reviews to be removed. Sunday Riley even went so far as to use fake IP locations to avoid detection from Sephora.

What to Do?

The above is merely a quick snapshot of the issues of relying on anonymous reviews on any product in the mass ecommerce channel. Given what we know, how can smart consumers like you navigate product review research without falling for fakes? 

Trust Your Gut: If a price or rating looks too good to be true, it usually is. 

Be Diligent: Compare products across many sites. See if there is a trend in how products are reviewed elsewhere. Sort the lowest reviews to see if there are any legitimate consistent product trends, complaints or shortcomings.

Be Wary of Sponsored Reviews: Not quite “fake” but also not kosher. Many reviews will have a disclaimer that reveals a promotion or other value was given in exchange for that review. 

Use a Verified Review Resource: This is where WeeViews comes in. WeeViews exists to combat wasting your cash through personal, verified, and authentic product experiences. 

Online reviews still have their value, but be sure to approach your next spend with healthy skepticism. The goal of reviews was to make online shopping easier and more democratic, not less. Apply the above knowledge and make the most of your next purchasing decision with WeeViews. 

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