• Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

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Amazon shoppers ‘bribed’ to leave positive reviews

You might be tempted to buy products on Amazon that have glowing reviews and high ratings. After all, who doesn’t want to get the best deal possible? Before you click that “buy now” button, you might want to take a closer look at those reviews. Because, as it turns out, not all of them are genuine.

In fact, some of them are downright misleading. So, how can you tell the difference? And who is behind this shady practice? That’s what Which? – a U.K.-based consumer watchdog – wanted to find out. And what they discovered is shocking.

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The not-so-star-studded findings

The investigation dives into a concerning trend where some Amazon sellers are veering off the ethical track. They’re nudging buyers toward leaving a five-star review in exchange for a bit of a carrot at the end of the stick.

The findings are quite the eye-opener: one in 10 Amazon customers have been offered incentives like gift cards, refunds and even free products, all in a bid to rack up those golden stars next to products.

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Screenshot of Amazon.com

Amazon users are being offered incentives for leaving five-star reviews. (Amazon)

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The ripple effect of a five-star bribe

On the surface, it might seem like a win-win. The seller gets a stellar review, and the buyer gets a little extra. But the domino effect of this practice runs deep. When the star ratings get skewed, it’s the next shopper who might be swayed into buying a not-so-great product.

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How sellers manipulate reviews with cash, gift cards and refunds

It’s a varied assortment of incentives. Some buyers found cards in their packages offering cash refunds for a positive review. Others were enticed with gift cards or even a full refund plus a little extra cash. And then there’s the email follow-up, where sellers reach out to buyers offering a reward for changing a negative review to a positive one. It’s a spectrum of offers all aimed at one thing: painting a rosy picture with five-star reviews.

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Some sneaky Amazon sellers merge positive reviews of unrelated products to boost product ratings

The craftiness doesn’t end there. Some sellers are playing a longer game, merging positive reviews of unrelated products to boost their own product’s star ratings. It’s a murky practice that leaves the average buyer in the dark, often swayed by a high star rating that’s not all it seems to be.

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Woman typing on her laptop.

Woman leaving a review on Amazon. (CyberGuy.com)

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Shaking the foundations of trust

The findings from this investigation send a clear message that there’s a hiccup in the trust we place in online reviews, nudging online platforms and policymakers to take a closer peek.

Earlier this summer the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed new rules against similar fake online reviews. Violators would be fined $50,000 per case and consumers hurt by fake reviews would be entitled to receive money from sellers guilty of such actions. We should know shortly by the end of 2023 if and when the proposed new rules for online reviews are adopted by the FTC and become enforceable.

It makes you wonder, if stars can be bought so easily on Amazon, what’s stopping that from trickling down to other platforms? It’s a ripple effect that could shake the trust we have in those stars and comments guiding our decisions.

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Photo of a person holding a gavel.

If you receive offers of incentives for leaving reviews, you can report it to Amazon. (CyberGuy.com)

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How to report fake reviews on Amazon 

Be wary of incentives or rewards offered by sellers for leaving positive reviews. This is against Amazon’s policy and may indicate that the product is not as good as it claims to be. If you encounter such offers, you can report them to Amazon and help prevent other customers from being misled by following these steps:

  • Log onto Amazon.com and sign in to your account
  • Find the product page of the item that you received the offer for
  • Scroll down to the customer reviews section and look for the review that matches the offer
  • Click on the Report Abuse button below the review and follow the instructions

You can also send an email to community-help@amazon.com with the details of the offer and the seller

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Kurt’s key takeaways

The investigation by Which? uncovers a shady side to those glowing star ratings on Amazon. Shockingly, one in 10 Amazon customers has been offered bribes, from gift cards to free products, in exchange for a five-star review. 

This not-so-star-studded revelation reveals how sellers manipulate ratings, potentially leading unsuspecting shoppers down a questionable path. The next time you’re tempted by a five-star product, it might be worth peeling back the layers to see the truth behind those seemingly golden ratings.

When browsing online, do you give a second thought to the reviews or dive right in? Have you ever snagged a deal based on raving reviews only to scratch your head later? Do you think the U.S. should also enact legislation against fake reviews? Share your take and any review misadventures by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact

For more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter

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