Watch out for fake, misleading reviews when shopping online

Online shopping is popular, and will spike with Cyber Monday sales.

If you rely on product reviews to help you make your buying decisions, the Better Business Bureau warns you to watch out. How many of the reviews are from real customers, and how many come from people paid to say nice things?

“Recently some lawsuits have been filed by an online portal company against people writing fake reviews on their sites,” said Greg Dunn, BBB Hawaii CEO.

In October, Amazon filed a lawsuit against more than 1,000 people who allegedly asked for money to post about products. In April, it sued four websites to stop them from selling fake, positive product reviews.

In February, Yelp did something similar.

“You’re essentially putting false information on the web in an attempt to convince consumers that product is going to be something they’ll like,” Dunn said.

How can you tell a review is fake? The BBB says it’s hard, and it’ll take more time than normal.

Don’t just go by the number of stars or number of reviews. Look at who the reviewer is. See if that person has many reviews, hundreds or thousands, and read everything.

“In the fine print at the very bottom, they’ll be a disclosure that says, ‘I was provided product or cash in exchange for writing this review,'” Dunn said. “Look for something overly technical, or something taken directly out of the user manual.”

To get an accurate review, the BBB suggests consulting more than one consumer website.

If you have a consumer concern or if you’re interested in becoming an Action Line volunteer, call 591-0222 weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or send an email to

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