Buyers Beware of Fake Five Star Reviews

Game Over neon orange lights on a white brick wall, with Five Hollow Stars. Image by CeeGrrn

With COVID-19’s lockdown, many of us have either explored or expanded our online shopping experience. Most of us don’t read reviews or compare products reviews, because who has that time right! 

I’m a shopper who looks at reviews and specs before purchasing a new product. I often visit three to five sites searching for consistencies in reviews, especially with my larger ticket items. I prided myself with my online diligence, until recently. It was for a $15 product that didn’t measure up to its reviews. Fifteen dollars, how trivial I know, but that $15 loss hit my ego.

The product I purchased seen below, is listed as an “AmazonChoice” product and sports four out of 5-stars, it all just appeared so perfect. 

The product page on Amazon.

Itried this product in all the drains in my home, which are different sizes. The first time I tried it, I inserted the plug, ran the water, it appeared to work, went and gathered all my bathroom supplies, returned, and the water level didn’t raise. I turned the tap off, left the plug in the drain, and the water level kept dropping. That’s when I tested the other drains and got the same result. And that’s when my ego took a kick to the gut. And DON’T fall for the product video’s for this product as I did.

My bruised ego led me to investigate.

I played detective using my Instagram account. Amazon sellers would direct message me daily, some were polite with enticing offers, and others were crass and pushy. There were cryptic sellers and others were upfront with their conditions, letting you know if they don’t receive a 5-star review, you don’t get the product free.

So how it works is, you purchase the product using your credit card. You give the seller a good or 5-star review for the product, then they refund your purchase via PayPal and not your credit card. This method avoids triggering a red flag on Amazon. By using your credit card, the sale becomes legit, therefore the review is legit. What Amazon doesn’t know is you are being refunded via PayPal.

I did not go through with any of the above requests, because I’m a skeptic and was afraid of falling victim to cybercrime. I did, however, find some options to sidestep the false reviews.

Here are two sites that help spot fake reviews:
1. ReviewMeta

ReviewMeta uses technology to identify and remove all fake reviews to give consumers a more accurate rating. You can either copy and paste the product URL onto the site beside the red “Run Report” button or add it as an extension onto your toolbar. 

ReviewMeta screenshot of the product. Note the “Review Hijacking Alert!” -The reviews belong to another product.

I find the copy and paste method more effective than the extension, and it produced better results as seen above. I also find the Fakespot extension overrides the ReviewMeta extension while using Amazon. 

2. Fakespot

Fakespot helps protect consumers from falling for fake reviews by allowing you to either copy and paste the product URL onto the site beside the word analyze or you could add it as an extension onto your toolbar. The extension option automatically shows the products corrected ratings just above the product price in the top right corner while using Amazon, seen below.

This screenshot is from the product page on Amazon.

I use both, ReviewMeta and Fakespot; however, I prefer using ReviewMeta. Both fake review sites also monitor Walmart, Best Buy and others; check the website for details.

Now you can shop with an added peace of mind on sites like Amazon and Walmart. Happy shopping, and don’t forget to share your new-found knowledge!


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