Online reviews are a great way for consumers to determine whether or not they want to buy a product or use a business. They are also a great resource for building confidence in your own business and bringing in new clientele. The problem is, people know how helpful positive reviews and harmful negative reviews can be, so many have resorted to flooding the Internet with fake online reviews.

With regular advertising like billboards and commercials, the viewer understands that they are being pitched an idea from a company. However, online reviews are supposed to reveal genuine customer reactions and opinions of a product, so fake posts are deceptive and can be harmful to the company. In fact, companies like Amazon have started retaliating by suing people who write and sell fake reviews.

When you are trying to make purchasing decisions, use these 5 red flags to help you spot fake online reviews:

Generic or random names. Most sites require the reviewer to sign in to an account before they can post a comment. You can sometimes spot fake reviews if the name attached to the account seems overly generic (like John Smith) or randomized to the point where a human would have a hard time creating or remembering it (like J325o729h384n).
Review history. If a reviewer’s account has no prior history of comments, it is more likely to have been created specifically to help or hinder that website. If the reviewer has a long, rich history of reviews, they are probably giving their genuine opinions. Also, if the reviewer’s location is shown and is nowhere near the business, it’s likely fake. For example, a fake reviewer could show as living in India or China while reviewing a restaurant in California.
Fake speech. Fake reviews will often contain excessive product-speech that doesn’t sound like a real person. This helps the review get noticed by search engines that look for specific key phrases and entire product names. Also, fake reviews often lack any details at all, claiming that a product has “miracle results” or that it “doesn’t work at all” but don’t give any specifics.
Overly emotional reviews. If a reviewer is extremely hostile, it might be a fake opinion given by someone who is angry for some reason that may or may not have to do with the company. This can sometimes be a red flag for a bad product, but more often than not, it just means someone is angry at a specific person. Hostile reviews are also a major way that rival companies try to hurt their competition. Keep an eye out for superlatives like “best” and “worst” with a lot of exclamation points and reviews with excessive capitalization.
Spammy reviews. If a reviewer has posted many reviews in a short period of time over several websites, it’s probably the result of computer spam. This is especially true if the reviews all have similar or even copy-pasted phrasing. Also beware of many reviews posted all at exactly the same time on a single website, even if it’s by different reviewers.
Whether you are looking at reviews for your own company’s website or for a product you may or may not want to buy, you should keep an eye out for fake reviews. They can be written by rival companies or by random Internet trolls who just want to start a fight. Fake reviews are more prevalent than you may think, so always look at reviews with a critical eye.

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