7 On Your Side

Spotting a fake online review

Friday, May 04, 2012

Online reviews can be useful to provide honest opinions on everything from restaurants to hotels, but what you see may not be what you get.

So how can you tell the difference between an honest online review done by a real customer, like a photo editor assigned to let the picture speak for itself, and a phony write-up?

"Read through them if the reviews seem glowing or inconsistent, question that," Angie Hicks said.

Her "members only" consumer review website, Angie's List, uses an I-T algorithm to spot fake business reviews, does not allow anonymous reviews and will flag any company they find reviewed themselves.

"You can tell when the marketing department writes it," she laughed.

A recent Cornell University study found certain patterns are deceptive indicators like directly mentioning the full name of the business in the review. Fake reviews also mention "I" and "Me" more often than real ones, use plenty of adverbs like "very" and "really" and use plenty of exclamation points.

Yelp relies on reviewers who sign up and develop a profile to lead others to that perfect burger or doctor. Yelp uses filters to protect consumers and business owners from fake, shill or malicious reviews.

It's also important to know how the website your relying on to review that restaurant, hotel, service or professional makes their money. Can a business pay to be listed?

Writing fake reviews has also become a business, look at all these writers offering to write positive reviews for just a 5 dollar fee!

"There's incredible value in consumers sharing their opinions with one another, but they have to own those opinions," Hicks said.

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