Fake online reviews are easy enough to spot, right? Glowing raves that sound suspiciously like the company’s value statement, or harsh criticisms that direct readers to another site. While these are often telltale signs of a fake review (one posted by a company representative or a competitor), there are actually a lot that slip through our truth-detectors.
A study out of Cornell University showed that humans do no better than chance at identifying phony reviews.
For confident shoppers, this may come as a bit of a shock. Not only do fake reviews abound in the online world, they often fool us. That means hard-earned money spent on products that are falsely acclaimed.
Better Business Bureau develops honest online review system
There’s hope, however. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has created an online review system that extensively vets reviews before they’re published. People behind the screen verify who the reviewers are and whether their claims are legitimate.
BBB evaluators first email a reviewer to check their identity. If verified, the BBB asks the reviewed company about the feedback. If the company suspects the claim is not from an individual they have dealt with, BBB evaluators go back to the reviewer and ask for proof of purchase or interaction.
It’s a tough job, but in the age of spammers, someone must do it.
“We go above and beyond any of the online services that are available,” said Len Andrusiak, president and CEO of the BBB serving Manitoba and Northwest Ontario. The BBB is a 100-year-old not-for-profit organization that works toward creating a better marketplace for consumers and businesses.
Once reviews are verified, they’re posted on the BBB page for that company. The BBB hosts an online address for every business in North America—not just accredited ones. In Manitoba and Northwest Ontario, that’s over 30,000 businesses, each with its own URL. An organization’s URL is www.bbbreview.us/(000000000) followed by that company’s 10-digit phone number.
“We want to ensure people are getting accurate information about a product before they make the decision to buy. Our review system is one of the strategies we have for creating a better marketplace for consumers and companies,” Andrusiak said.
The review system doesn’t just benefit buyers, it helps companies with honest policies and quality products—companies that may otherwise suffer from false negative reviews posted by competitors or scammers.
The BBB reminds consumers to also leave positive reviews when they’re happy with products. This helps other buyers find quality products and services.