Mega e-commerce and cloud computing giant Amazon has a fake review problem.
That’s according to a new report from Buzzfeed News on the company, where the vast majority of reviews for items such as Bluetooth headphones and speakers appear to violate Amazon’s prohibition on paid reviews. Such reviews have certain characteristics, such as repetitive wording that people probably cut and paste in.
Various groups exist that help connect “reviewers” to those that might pay for them. While recently shuttered, two of the largest groups – “Amazon Review Club” and “US Amazon Review Club” – each had 69,000 and 60,000 members, respectively. Many more groups still exist, with tens of thousands of members apiece.
One of the most common tactics, according to the report, is to ask customers to buy a certain product on Amazon and say that they will subsequently be reimbursed via PayPal. In order for it to be marked as an “Amazon Verified Purchase,” the reviewer must have bought the product themselves, without receiving a discount from the vendor.
The most obvious characteristic of a fake review is when a product gets dozens of five-star reviews within hours of it being posted. Some of them appear to be worded similarly, too.
Depending on the amount of reviews, an average “reviewer” can make anywhere from $10 USD a month to several hundred, plus the actual product reviewed, whether her or she used it or not.
Amazon has made efforts to deal with the problem, aggressively policing for incentivized reviews and filing five lawsuits since 2015 against people who wrote paid reviews and the companies that solicited them.
An Amazon spokesperson told BuzzFeed News the percentage of inauthentic reviews on the platform is nominal, but wouldn’t get into more specific details. In a statement, she wrote, “Amazon is investing heavily to detect and prevent inauthentic reviews. In addition to advance detection, we use a machine-learned algorithm that gives more weight to newer, more helpful reviews, apply strict criteria to qualify for the Amazon verified purchase badge and enforce a significant dollar amount requirement to participate.”
Check out Buzzfeed News‘ entire report here.