With so many product options available, making a purchasing decision can be overwhelming. Fortunately, online product reviews enable consumers to make educated decisions. Unfortunately, it is estimated that nearly one in every three reviews is fake.  And the emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI) could supercharge the proliferation of fake reviews across the internet.

In response, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently proposed a new rule that would penalize such deceptive activity as “using fake reviews, suppressing honest negative reviews, and paying for positive reviews” with stiff penalties.

Consumer Reports found that 74 percent of Americans read online reviews before making purchase decisions “at least sometimes,” according to a 2020 national survey. But 76 percent of those surveyed said they thought they had encountered fake reviews in the process. 

So how can you tell the difference between a phony review and a genuine testimonial?

  • Always be skeptical of overenthusiastic reviews with little detail such as five stars but no comments.
  • Be suspicious of reviews that tout that a product is awesome or amazing without saying why.
  • Cross-reference customer reviews of the same products on different websites.
  • Beware of negative reviews that consistently question the good reviews.
  • Read reviews from professionals at reputable publications.
  • See if the reviewer has written other reviews to check if there is a pattern of “cut and paste” style reviews.
  • Check for a burst of reviews during a short time span. Phony reviews tend to be published in bulk over a short period of time, sometimes all on the same day.

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