How to identify and counter bogus online reviews

Consumers put great stock in endorsements and in damning assessments of products and services, but some such writeups are completely fake. Here’s how to spot them and respond.

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Countering fake reviews

Online reviews sway consumers—but many of them are fabricated.

Fake online reviews hurt honest businesses, give dishonest businesses an unfair advantage and undermine the entire market.

Research shows that 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses, and 57% will patronize only those businesses with four or more stars.

Star ratings often mislead shoppers, and fake online reviews are pervasive. Estimates of the problem vary, depending on the category and platform. A 2018 Washington Post analysis found that more half of Amazon reviews in some categories were suspicious.

Some businesses pay services or freelance writers to churn out flattering five-star reviews. The most unscrupulous pay writers to publish negative reviews about competitors. Others give customers incentives to write fake reviews. SEO firms might include bogus reviews in their services, sometimes without revealing the tactic to clients.

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