Tips for Using Reviews when Shopping Online

For years, our main piece of advice on using reviews has been to look at a variety of sources, including well-known websites that have credible and impartial expert reviews. That’s still a very good place to start. But here are some other tips for using online reviews and deciding when to be skeptical:

  • When you search for a product online beware of the first few sites that come up as some of them may say (ad) and could be an article written by the manufacturer of the product saying great things about the product.  This is not an independent review but an infomercial trying to help sell the product.
  • Check how recent the reviews are, watch for a burst of reviews over a short period of time. That can sometimes mean the reviews are fake.
  • Check if the reviewer has written other reviews. If so, read those to get a better sense of how much to trust that reviewer. But if it seems that the reviewer has created an account just to write one review for one product, that review may be fake.
  • Don’t assume that, just by looking, you can spot the difference between a real review and a fake one. Some reviews may look suspicious, and some may look real, but it can often be nearly impossible to tell for sure. For example, you already know to watch out for reviews that seem too positive to be real, but some fake positive reviews give less than the highest possible rating in order to seem more credible.
  • Remember that fake reviews are not always positive. Sometimes, a company might post fake negative reviews to harm a competitor.
  • Always seek independent resources for a more balanced review of a product, i.e., Consumer Reports etc.

You won’t always know if a reviewer got something — like a free product — in exchange for writing a review. But, on some websites, you’ll see a label or badge next to the review that tells you the reviewer got an incentive. How you weigh those reviews is up to you.

* Excerpts from this article from FTC publications

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