Search for Red Flags Requires Time

During our research into online customer reviews, we found many other publications that tout steps that consumers can take to identify fake reviews. However, even the most appealing methods require time that the typical consumer doesn’t have or wouldn’t want to spend playing detective.

For example, one publication suggests that you can copy and paste language from a customer review into a website search engine to see whether the same language appears on other review websites. If it does, that’s a good indication that the review is fake, because the person who submitted the review likely planted the same review across the Internet.

When we tried this method, it took us 4 minutes to copy and paste text into a search engine for the first five reviews of a tent from a retailer’s website. If we had done that for the 80 customer reviews that were posted for the tent, it would have taken 64 minutes to finish.

Other sources suggest that you read the profile of the person who submitted the review. (Profiles typically are linked to a reviewer’s profile name on most review websites). The profile typically includes the number of reviews that the person submitted to the website. In general, you should be skeptical of reviewers who have posted only one review, because it increases the likelihood (but doesn’t guarantee) that the review is fake.

However, if a product or service has, say, at least 50 reviews, you’d have to click on the profile of each reviewer to determine how many reviews each person has submitted, which might require 25 minutes. Even if you discover that a person has submitted just one review, it doesn’t necessarily prove that the person posted a fake review.

In other words, don’t waste your time vetting customer reviews.