Vanessa doesn’t believe in Amazon reviews, especially those that are positive. If she reads a comment about how good the food is in a restaurant she thinks there is a very high chance that it is not true. She knows firsthand how the fake review business works. Vanessa worked as a waitress at a pizzeria where she was explained that one of the things she had to do was write positive reviews. “They were quite simple, things like ‘the best pizza, a very good option for dinner with the family’ and things like that,” she explained.
The waitress insisted that the business, located in Dallas, was very poorly run and that because the restaurant had few customers, she had little work to do. That’s why they forced her to write fake reviews, with different profiles and in various delivery apps like Rappi.
Vanessa’s story is just a tiny part of the fake reviews business, against which most major platforms such as TripAdvisor or the giant Amazon are fighting. However, companies that market with untrue opinions are very elusive.
Almost everything we do in our lives has an opinion. When buying a product, food in a restaurant or in the supermarket in our neighborhood. Especially when trying something new, we pull opinions from Amazon to see how the user experience has been, despite the fact that many of the reviews we read could be false, without us knowing it. This problem is nothing new.
According to PCMAG, in 2020, a survey showed that “only 16 percent of respondents were very confident they could detect fake Amazon product reviews; 24 percent were confident they could do it. Most — 33 percent — were somewhat confident they could suss out bogus write-ups; the rest were not confident or not at all confident they could pick out the fakes. In that same survey, 78 percent of people said Amazon product reviews play a big role in their purchase decisions”.
But it is not only Amazon, it also happens on TripAdvisor. A positive comment was the one that played a trick on Carol. During a vacation in Mexico, she read several reviews about a hotel in which everyone praised the service and facilities.
When she arrived, the reality was very different. “The photos had nothing to do with it, it was all very dirty, there were even animals in the common areas, dogs and cats leaving hair everywhere,” she said. But all the reviews, most of them on Booking, gave the hotel 5 stars and the comments were all positive.
The companies behind fake reviews on Amazon or TripAdvisor
Finally, Carol ended up admitting that she “fell into the trap” of false opinions. A trap behind an industry behind each opinion that is not true to reality. Fake reviews usually come in two ways: either money or free products. Agencia Reviews is one of the companies that works with the latest method.
It’s easy for users: all you need is an Amazon, Paypal and Telegram account. In the group of the company in the messaging app certain products are advertised, ranging from wireless headphones, smart watches or alarm clocks. None of these products are brand name products and they are mostly low-end brand products.
If the user is interested, they contact the administrator to confirm that the advertised product is still available. Once the buyer has received it, he has to post a positive review (even if he has not tried it). Agencia Reviews then returns you, through PayPal, the full amount of the product you have purchased.
The big losers
The first to be harmed by fake Amazon reviews are customers. The second, the companies in which these valuations are published. E-commerce has millions of articles and companies like Agencia Reviews focus only on the marketplace to give away products in exchange for positive comments. Company sources recalled that their policies prohibit the alteration of community functions and that they take action against those who violate the rules with measures such as the suspension or elimination of accounts.
TripAdvisor explained in a post that they have a tracking system that identifies suspicious activity in the review. If one of the assessments is suspicious, a specialized team of investigators is in charge of proving it. This team goes after both companies and individuals trying to sell these opinions. “In many countries, both the buying and selling of opinions are illegal and, if the offender is discovered, he can be sentenced to prison,” the platform warned.
There are not enough legal regulations
But does this behavior have consequences? In the case of e-commerce websites like Amazon, the user who has published this false opinion can be blocked. Compensation for damages caused to consumers and users could also be requested. You can even go to the ordinary Courts of Justice. However, for this, it should be proven that there is such bad faith and that the advertising is totally misleading, false and disguised. Issues that are very difficult to demonstrate.
More and more buyers are aware that there are fake reviews on Amazon, as well as on other online stores or review platforms. These companies know this too and take steps to identify them. But the challenge is very great.
The fact that there is a specific legality in this regard makes it difficult for this type of practice to have quick and direct consequences. Meanwhile, some companies continue to operate under a business model that encourages unfair competition and even fraud. That is not, however, an impediment for the more than 7,700 subscribers that are part of the Telegram channel of Agencia Reviews.
On a fake reviews subreddit, a user acknowledged that she had purchased several free products in exchange for a positive review. “I entered a consumer loop,” she wrote. Smartwatches, USB cables, chair covers or a dog raincoat. You can buy all kinds of things in exchange for an opinion; The question is whether it is really worth buying these types of products and promoting practices that have consequences that go far beyond publishing four sentences praising something that we may not have even tried.