How to spot a fake review: You’re probably worse at it than you realise

August 13th, 2019 | | industry

Ever relied on an online review to make a purchasing decision? How do you know it was actually genuine?

Consumer reviews can be hugely influential, so it’s hardly surprising there’s a thriving trade in fake ones. Estimates of their prevalence vary — from 16 per cent of all reviews on Yelp, to 33 per cent of all TripAdvisor reviews, to more than half in certain categories on Amazon.

So how good are you at spotting fake consumer reviews?

Adrian Camilleri, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at University of Technology, Sydney surveyed 1,400 Australians about their trust in online reviews and their confidence in telling genuine from fake. The results suggest many of us may be fooling ourselves about not being fooled by others.

In strangers we trust

Online consumer reviews were the equal-second-most-important source for information about products and services, after store browsing. Most of us rate consumer reviews — the views of perfect strangers — just as highly as the opinion of friends and family.

Trust is central to the importance of reviews in our decision-making. The following chart shows the trust results broken down by age: in general, people most trust product information from government sources and experts, followed by consumer reviews.

The most trusted sources for reviews being Reviews and

Those aged 23-38 tended to trust sites the most, and those above 55 tended to trust sites the least.

While 73 per cent of participants said they trusted online reviews at least a moderate amount, 65 per cent also said it was likely they had read a fake review in the past year.

The paradox of these percentages suggests confidence in spotting fake reviews. Indeed, 48 per cent of respondents believed they were at least moderately good at spotting fake reviews. Confidence tended to correlate with age: those who were younger tended to rate themselves as better at detecting fake reviews.

In Adrian’s opinion, respondents’ confidence is a classic example of overconfidence. It’s a well-documented paradox of human self-perception, known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. The worse you are at something, the less likely you have the competence to know how bad you are.

The fact is most humans are not particularly good at distinguishing between truth and lies.

A 2006 study involving almost 25,000 participants found that lie-truth judgments averaged just 54 per cent accuracy — barely better than flipping a coin. In a study looking more specifically at online reviews (but with only a small number of judges), Cornell University researchers found an accuracy rate of about 57 per cent. A similar study based at the University of Copenhagen found an accuracy rate of about 65 per cent, with information about reviewers improving scores slightly.

What we look for

So what tends to sway people’s judgement about whether a review is fake or not? Adrian’s research suggests the most important attribute people look out for is “extremity” — going over the top in one-sided praise or criticism.

This sentiment is a relatively sound rule of thumb, supported by analysis. Studies suggest fake reviews also tend to:

  • focus on describing product attributes and features
  • have much fewer subjective and anecdotal details
  • be shorter than others
  • be relatively more difficult to read (probably due to fake reviewers being hired from foreign countries)

Fake reviews might also be identified by characteristics of the reviewer. Their profiles tend to be new and unverified accounts with few details and little or no history of other reviews. They will have gained very few “helpful” votes from others.

a graphic on how to spot fake reviews

Test yourself

With all this in mind, it’s now’s time to see how good you are at spotting fake reviews with this quiz.

Which of these is a real review of the Chicago Hilton?

Select the real review.

  • A. My husband and I satayed for two nights at the Hilton Chicago,and enjoyed every minute of it! The bedrooms are immaculate,and the linnens are very soft. We also appreciated the free wifi,as we could stay in touch with friends while staying in Chicago. The bathroom was quite spacious,and I loved the smell of the shampoo they provided-not like most hotel shampoos. Their service was amazing,and we absolutely loved the beautiful indoor pool. I would recommend staying here to anyone.
  • B. We stay at Hilton for 4 nights last march. It was a pleasant stay. We got a large room with 2 double beds and 2 bathrooms, The TV was Ok, a 27′ CRT Flat Screen. The coincierge was very friendly when we need. The room was very cleaned when we arrived, we ordered some pizzas from room service and the pizza was Ok also.The main Hall is beautiful. The breakfast is charged, 20 dollars, kinda expensive. The internet access (WiFi) is charged, 13 dollars/day. Pros: Low rate price, huge rooms, close to attractions at Loop, close to metro station. Cons: Expensive breakfast, Internet access charged. Tip: When leaving the building, always use the Michigan Av exit. Its a great view.

Which of these is a real review of the Affinia Chicago (now MileNorth)?

Select the real review.

  • A. Have stayed at this hotel on several occasions and have never failed to be anything but delighted. Great Bar (draught Stella and Guinness) which was being upgraded at the end of March when I was last there, good food, lovely staff, large clean rooms, comfortable beds, spot on location for the Golden Mile, Joey’s Pizzas next door are fantastic. Ignore any bad reviews you read about this hotel as the authors must either have been very unlucky or impossible to please. Highly recommended
  • B. The Affinia hotel in Chicago was superb. the room service was exemplary and the food, I don’t even know were to start. The chef obviously knew what he was doing, I especially loved the seafood, my personal favorite was the shrimp. Aside from this, I loved how beautiful the hotel was. It is definetly a bargain for the price, for that price you would probably get a good 3 star hotel but, I felt as if i was in a $10,000 a night 5 star hotel in the Europe. great bang for your buck. Would recommend it to anybody looking to relax at a great hotel with great amenities in a great city. My friends actually went their a while back because of me. They loved it! I know you will too.

Which of these is a real review of the Homewood Suites hotel?

Select the real review.

  • A. Our first visit to Chicago and I really cannot wait to go back. The hotel was in a great location and every member of staff we had contact with were exceptionally helpful. Particular mention should go to the door staff who were amazingly helpful. The room was clean, quiet and spacious, if only every hotel were like this.
  • B. My boyfriend and I wanted to spend a four-day weekend in downtown Chicago and do all the touristy things; shop the Magnificient Mile, see Shedd aquarium, go to the museum of Science and Industry. Homewood Suites was conveniently located near all of these things. It was a luxurious treat of a weekend! We even swam in their rooftop indoor pool. It was also nice to have the amenities of a suite, so we could prepare our own meals some days. The staff was friendly and courteous (they even gave me an extra pillow on request!) and we would definitely stay there again.

Which of these is a real review of the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel?

Select the real review.

  • A. I love this hotel. It is one of the best that I have stayed in. The lobby was beautiful and the room was nice and comfortable. The made services was terrific. No matter what time we left the room it was made up when we came back. I asked the maid for a couple of extras and she was very nice and friendly. That is what I liked about the hotel the staff was so nice and friendly. I was there with my daughter for a girl’s weekend from Thursday – Sunday. Everyone from the doorman to the concierge to the people at the desk etc. was wonderful. I can’t say enough good about this hotel. Yes the bathroom was small, but I wasn’t moving into the room. I was just staying there a few days and was hardly in the room anyway. I will definitely stay there again
  • B. My company was hosting a seminar at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago, IL. Each participant of the seminar stayed in one of the luxurious rooms at the hotel. My room had an incredible view of downtown Chicago and the styles of the rooms were very modern. My husband was able to stay back in the room and enjoy the large flat screen television while I attended the seminar in one of the hotels meeting rooms. On Saturday night, my company held a ball in the Crystal Ballroom. The food was excellent, the hotel chefs were the best. The servers were polite and were right there to fill up our drinks or bring us more food at the dinner. Our overall stay at Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel will be forever in my memory. It was a fun filled weekend with great food, clean rooms, excellent maid service and all the hotel personnel were polite and willing to fulfill our every need and want! We will definitely be staying here again!

Final one: which of these is a real review of the Hotel Allegro Chicago?

Select the real review.

  • A. I have to admit, I was a little leery about visiting Chicago due to my mild agoraphobia, but after a family member reserved a room at the Hotel Allegro Chicago, my fears were slightly assuaged. A few friends of mine had stayed in this hotel before, and had nothing but positive things to say. With this new-found optimism in mind, I went forward on my journey in confidence. I have to say, I was not let down. From the moment I stepped into the lobby, I felt at home. The concierge called bellboys to move our luggage from the taxi to our rooms, and the check-in process was fast and efficient. The rooms themselves are incredibly homey, feeling less like a hotel room and more like the guest room at a millionaire’s mansion. The high comfort level coupled with prompt service when requesting items such as extra pillows and towels, really helped alleviate my apprehensions about staying in Chicago, and provided a secure place to stay at night, or whenever I did not feel like participating with the group. Of course, the rooms are second only to the overall feel of the hotel. I found myself spending less of my downtime in my room and more of it wandering around the building. Overall it’s very cozy, and has a certain old-world feeling to it, once again lending to it feeling less like a hotel and more like a mansion at times. It was never overwhelmingly crowded, and the people I did encounter were incredibly friendly, yet not intrusive. I don’t usually enjoy staying in hotels, but I love the Allegro Chicago!
  • B. I was apprehensive after reading some of the more negative reviews of the Hotel Allegro. However, our stay there was without problems and the staff could not have been more friendly and helpful. The room was not huge but there was plenty of room to move around without bumping into one another. The bathroom was small but well appointed. Overall, it was a clean and interestingly decorated room and we were pleased. Others have complained about being able to clearly hear people in adjacent rooms but we must have lucked out in that way and did not experience that although we could occasionaly hear people talking in the hallway. One other reviewer complained rather bitterly about the area and said that it was dangerous and I can’t even begin to understand that as we found it to be extremely safe. The area is also very close to public transportation (we used the trains exclusively) and got around quite well without a car. We would most definetly stay here again and recommend it to others.

Chances are you didn’t do as well as you thought you would. That’s because clever fraudsters work to hide all the attributes of fake reviews outlined above.

So two final pieces of advice.

Use some technology to help. Two websites he recommend are and In his experience, both do a good job weeding out suspicious reviews (tip: be sure to delete domain suffixes such as “.au” from the URLs you check).

Also check out multiple review sites to get second, third and fourth opinions. It is less likely a fraudster will be paying for fake reviews on every platform.

ED: To see how well you scored (I got 4/5), see the whole story at:

Source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow

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