Where do fake reviews come from?

Fake reviews, whether they’re positive or negative, are written with one thing in mind - to influence people’s behavior. And with more and more people using review sites before buying a product or service, the problem of fake reviews is a big issue. In fact, the World Economic Forum put their cost to the world economy at a staggering $152 billion. 

In our How to spot a fake review blog, we give some tips on what to look out for in a review to see if it’s a fake. Here we’ll take a look at where they come from because that can be a good indicator of which to trust and those to ignore. 

First, a quick word about real verified reviews and where they come from. They’re the opinions of genuine people who’ve actually bought something - a product or service. These people want to honestly share their views on what they’ve bought to either: 

  • Help other people like them make informed decisions before spending their money 
  • Let the company they’ve used know what they think of them   

Both can be useful. Fake reviews on the other hand aren’t there to be useful, they’re designed to mislead. Further on in this article, we explain why anyone contemplating writing a fake review should think twice. 

So who is leaving them and why?

Family, friends, and social networks 

If you’re running your own business you want to let the world know all about it. So who better to ask to promote it than your personal contacts? There can’t be any harm in asking them to say something positive about you, even if it’s not 100% true, can there?  

Yes, there can.  

It's clearly more of an issue if you start to ask your contacts to knock a competitor. Especially if you suggest negative things for them to say or make untrue claims about why your business is so much better. But no one’s that stupid, are they? You’d be surprised. 

Ex-employees  

It’s not unusual for someone to feel angry when a company lets them go. The internet now gives them the forum to vent that anger by making fake claims about their old employer. Some people even get family and friends involved too. But they’re still writing fake reviews and depending on what they say and how they’re posted, this can have serious consequences for those posting or promoting them. 

Customers 

Disgruntled customers have been known to post fake reviews to platforms to: 

  • Vent their anger as revenge over what they’ve viewed as poor service or inferior products  
  • Try to get an unjustified refund, discount, or some form of freebie 

It’s not just unhappy customers who do this either. ‘Serial fake reviewing’ is a way of life for some people – for the refunds or through getting paid to write them.  

Companies 

The business world is a competitive one. So it’s not surprising that some companies will use any media and techniques possible to promote themselves. 

Review sites allow a company to spread the word about itself or its competitors relatively quickly, economically, and with a level of anonymity. This leads some to think they can use the platforms to say what they want with little regard for the truth.  

As well as generating reviews that mention themselves (or their competitors) they can ‘import’ large numbers of high or low-starred reviews for other products into their ratings. Whilst these aren’t fake reviews in the true sense, they can manipulate how Google positions the company in searches. If they can do this to ‘up’ their ratings, this negatively drives their competitors further down in search rankings. Either way, it isn’t morally or legally acceptable. 

Some companies will game search results ‘once removed’ by letting their PR companies or marketing agencies do it instead. That way they can claim they didn’t know what’s been happening. Either way, a fake review is a fake review, and falsely manipulating where a company appears in searches is effectively doing the same thing. And, if they’re caught out someone, will have to take responsibility and pay the consequences. 

Companies and agencies don’t even have to write their fake reviews. There are whole new industries they can turn to. 

Influencers and review sellers 

Social influencers now have a huge impact on a lot of people’s buying patterns. Some are more ethical than others and will mention when they’ve been sent free products to review. Others though are effectively paid spokespeople and will just create reviews and content saying exactly what they’ve been told to. 

Then there’s the top end of the review selling industry – online automated apps and mass providers.  

Online subscription apps can produce ‘believable’ sounding reviews a business could post just by providing a few keywords. We created the following reviews in a few seconds. For the Feefo one we entered words we feel represent our brand. And for Company Z we input simple negative words. 

  • Feefo
    I love Feefo. I've been a reviewer for years and it's the only place you'll find reviews like no other. The best part about it is that every review is real and verified. No shady content and fake reviews on here! Feefo is trustworthy, honest, and won't steer you wrong.
  • Company Z
    I can't find much information about company Z online and I find that worrying. There are no reviews for it I can find, which is always a bad sign. The only reviews that do exist on their website are fake and written by the company staff themselves, which is obviously a cause for concern.  

Mass fake review-providing companies are even more sophisticated. They’ll work with companies to: 

  • Define the target audience they want to influence 
  • Agree on the type of review content needed – from star ratings only to content reviews using keywords 
  • Create a strategic brief/approach – such as customer jacking. This is where the fake review company will post negative comments on the pages of a company’s competitors’ products and say positive things, or even include special offers, for their client’s products    
  • Establish the quantity of reviews/actions to achieve the required objectives 

A word of warning 

Posting fake reviews is illegal. You can already be tried under defamation laws if you’re caught doing it. Specific fake review legislation is already in place in the USA and EU. And under a newly proposed Government bill in the UK the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be granted more powers to take ‘swift and decisive action’ on behalf of consumers. In fact, under the new bill, the CMA could fine a company 10% of its global turnover. That will apply even if a fake review has found its way to a website from a company that doesn’t truly verify its ratings.  

Protect your business with Feefo

Research commissioned by Feefo shows that 97% of people now read reviews before spending their money. But research carried out by Feefo highlights that the current standard of reviews isn’t working.  

Our research also highlighted that over 35% of consumers don’t trust open platforms such as Trustpilot and Google Reviews. Why? Because anyone can leave a review on them without verification checks to make sure that the review comes from a customer who’s really bought something from a company. 

However, over two-thirds of people say they’d be influenced by a post if they knew it came from an ethical review company, such as Feefo. That’s because our verified reviews come from people invited to leave their opinions after actually buying a product or service. And with Feefo, businesses can be confident that law-breaking, potentially costly, false, brand-damaging opinions aren’t posted on their websites for real customers to read.

If you’d like to know more about how Feefo can protect your business from fake reviews, get in touch and one of our friendly team will give you a call. 


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