Millions of Amazon reviews fake, study finds

Product reviews can be a deal breaker when shopping online, but many are fake, an analysis of over 33 million reviews on Amazon has shown.

With Christmas just around the corner, gift buying can be a stressful endeavor, which is exactly why shoppers should execute extra caution at this time of year.

Not only are bargain-chasers at an increased risk of cybercrime during the holiday season, they should also be careful about making purchasing decisions based on online reviews.

According to a recent study that examined 33.5 million reviews for bestselling products on Amazon, almost every other of those, or 43%, were fake.

The study also found that nearly six in ten consumers rely on reviews when making online purchases. Even though 58% of shoppers said they believed five-star ratings were too good to be true, 43% said they would not buy a product with less than four stars.

The majority, 86%, said they needed to see at least a three-star review average to even consider buying a product, especially if it’s computers and electronics that they’re after.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, out of 2.6 million reviews in the computers and electronics category, more than half were found to be unreliable.

Still, it pales in comparison to clothes, shoes, and jewelry, a category with the highest proportion of fake feedback. Fakes accounted for 88% of the 4.5 million reviews analyzed in the study.

The study, carried out by the London-based delivery software company Circuit, found that Amazon-branded products had the most fake reviews, numbering at 1.5 million, followed by Apple, at 1 million.

“Our study finds that Amazon and Apple products have the most unreliable reviews, but this does not necessarily mean that these companies are complicit in misleading consumers,” Merritt Ryan from Circuit said.

Factors like third-party sellers attempting to manipulate the ratings may have contributed to the high number of unreliable reviews, according to Ryan. Other companies that stood out include underwear brand Hanes, with 839,000 fake reviews, and footwear brand Crocs, with 680,000.

“While it’s true that fake reviews can pose a challenge, it’s not accurate to say all of Amazon’s star ratings are unreliable. Many genuine reviews provide valuable insights into products, and with a discerning eye, customers can make informed decisions based on accurate ratings and thoughtful reviews,” Ryan said.

While the overall star rating could provide a general sense of a product’s quality, reading a range of reviews was also beneficial.

“An example can be paying attention to both positive and negative feedback. Look for detailed and informative reviews that discuss the product’s pros and cons based on the reviewer’s actual experience,” Ryan said.

Verified purchase labels could also indicate authenticity as they confirm that the reviewer bought the product from Amazon.

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed banning fake reviews and testimonials, while Amazon said it had taken legal action against fake reviewers and introduced policy changes aimed at fighting fake reviews.

Last week, Cybernews also reported about an Xbox Series X console being sold on Amazon’s German marketplace for €380 ($410), which turned out to be fake. The console was sold by a third-party vendor.

Amazon said it deactivated the account after an investigation. In a statement to Cybernews, the company said: “We work hard to create a trustworthy shopping experience by protecting customers, selling partners, and Amazon from fraud and abuse, and we have systems in place to detect suspicious behavior.”

It added: “We will continue to pursue all measures to protect our store and hold bad actors accountable."