Quick news update today: numerous sellers are reporting strings of fake, negative reviews flooding their product pages! Read on to find out more.
What the Reviews Look Like
A new surge of fake reviews is a bizarre occurrence, especially considering everything Amazon has done to make posting reviews en masse harder in recent months. However, if you take a look at just a couple of them, you can definitely tell they’re fake. Here’s what we know:
- They’re all posted under the alias “Amazon Customer”
- They range from 1 to 3 stars
- The language is nonsensical, in a way that can’t really be explained as lack of fluency — the review text legitimately looks like it was generated by some sort of (laughably bad) phrase-accumulating automatic process.
- Even stranger, these reviews are marked as ‘Verified Purchase.’
That last bullet point means that none of these “reviewers” actually made a purchase, as far as our system can tell, but they’ve still found some way to get the ‘Verified Purchase’ badge without directly placing an order through that account. The implications of this are vast, but it certainly doesn’t bode well for the integrity of the review system.
Here are some examples of the reviews, so that you can see exactly what we mean by “nonsensical.”
(Number 1 Amazon Priority: Make sure your customers have a pleasant shopping.)
As you can tell, we’re not exactly dealing with an AI genius here. To us, it looks like the program combs through phrases found in reviews and spits them out at random, with no rhyme, reason, or regard for grammar.
What This Means
Amazon has been cracking down on reviews for almost a year now: they’ve increased the minimum amount spent to post a review from $0 to $5 to $50, they’ve decreased the ranking priority of non-verified-review purchases, and, of course, they eventually forbade the use of incentivized reviews. You’d think that review exploitation would be dealt with by now — and yet, the infinite creativity of malicious actors has apparently found another way to get around all of Amazon’s carefully constructed roadblocks and begin posting fake reviews.
There’s one other curious piece of evidence that I’d like to point out — often, if you go to the profiles of these “reviewers," you can find one or two companies whose products they consistently rate 4 or 5 stars. Although this is basically circumstantial evidence, it does bring up the possibility that the “malicious actors” behind these fake reviews are associated with rival companies...
Now, I don’t want to get too far into wild speculation, as we’ll undoubtedly see new developments on this issue in the coming weeks. There may be a rational explanation behind these nonsensical reviews, and I would dismiss them as strange, but technically “real” reviews — as in, not posted with some greater malicious intent — if it weren’t for the reviews having a ‘Verified Purchase’ tag despite having no associated order number.
What to Do
For now, there’s not a whole lot you can do if one of these bizarre reviews pops up on your product page. Your best bet, as with most of these strange border cases, is to talk to Amazon.
If you’re part of a larger company and you have access to an Account Manager, you can talk to them to try and sort the situation out. If you don’t have access to an Account Manager, you can report the email to Amazon by clicking “Report Abuse,” although Amazon will only remove reviews if they violate Amazon’s review guidelines in obvious way, so you might have trouble making your case depending on the contents of the review. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and give them the ASIN of your product, the date/time/pseudonym of the review, and a link to the review, as well as an explanation of why the review should be removed/how it violates the review guidelines.
To summarize, the appearance of these fake reviews is 1. weird and 2. concerning. The first batch of fake reviews seems so poorly constructed that no one could possibly doubt that they're fake, but it's still deeply worrying that these reviews are listed as 'Verified Purchase' without an order number to back them up. What will happen when more savvy individuals post fake 'Verified Purchase' reviews, but write the reviews legibly? Who could tell that they were fake? Product pages could take serious hits to their average star ratings if more companies began taking advantage of this ruthless and unethical tactic.
Have you had any experience with these bizarre fake reviews — or even seen them on your own product pages? Let us know in the comments below!