If you make it to the bottom of all the customer reviews on Yelp, you'll find the word "Filtered" in tiny gray type. The curious can click on it to peel back the curtain on a web epidemic: fake online product and service reviews.

Yelp, which offers ratings on local businesses, employs a secret algorithm to root out reviews written by someone with an agenda -- to hype a store or demolish its reputation. Some legit reviews do get caught in the filter, says Yelp spokeswoman Stephanie Ichinose. "We believe it's worth the cost of suppressing a potentially legitimate review." Fake reviews would wind up destroying the site's credibility.

You needn't employ a secret algorithm to ferret out the fakes. Follow these tips to find the critiques that count:

1. Watch out for the fabulous! "Effusive, positive writing and lots of exclamation points are probably the No. 1 red flag," says Christine Frietchen, editor in chief of the merchandise-review site ConsumerSearch.com. "When was the last time you used a product that was perfect in every way?" Human beings -- real ones writing actual reviews -- tend to share the good and the bad. When Frietchen shops on Amazon she tends to ignore the five-star and one-star reviews, focusing on the three and four-star ones: Consumers are happy but have some gripes, such as when a blender does a great job mixing but weighs too much or takes up a lot of counter space. Be equally alert for scathing notices because they could be written by someone with an axe to grind or by a competitor.

2. Beware of perfect wording.
If the phrasing flows like ad copy, it probably is, warns Jeff Blyskal, a senior editor for Consumer Reports. Review factories are offering $10 for every 5-star review on the e-commerce giant Amazon, the New York Times reported. On that note, Blyskal figures someone waxing poetic about $5 socks should not be taken seriously. "It's just out of proportion to what it is," he said to DailyFinance.

3. Root out the outsourced.
On the flip side of propaganda penned by pros, misused colloquialisms and syntax are often the sign of outsourced dummy-review writers from other lands, ConsumerSearch.com's Frietchen says. She doesn't discredit reviews with spelling errors and typos because real reviewers make mistakes. But mercenary review-writing is a volume business, so those hired to contribute in bulk often don't double-check improper wording and nuance.

4. Nab the repeat offenders.
"If the reviewer has reviewed several products in a single category, that is also cause for concern," says Matt Moog, founder and CEO of the review-aggregator Viewpoints.com. How many toasters can one person own to review?

5. Read lots of reviews. Deborah Martin, a self-employed New Yorker who recently bought vitamins through the e-commerce giant Amazon, reads reviews on Amazon and many other platforms before she makes her purchase. "If you rely on more than one source for reviews, your chances for getting biased reviews are significantly diminished," she says.

6. Check the source. If there's only one or two reviews for a particular item, click on the name of the reviewer(s) if you can. They should link to the reviewer's profile and previous reviews, or a social media page that shows the reviewer is the real deal. In the case of Yelp and Amazon and some other consumer sites, the link should lead to other reviews the person has written on the same site. You can also Google to see if the authors have written product appraisals elsewhere. Authentic consumers who take the time to pen reviews have generally done this kind of thing before. Investigate if the author has written praise about a competitor elsewhere, or if he or she mentions a rival, suggests Melinda Morris. She says her Brooklyn, N.Y., invitation business Lion in the Sun was burned by someone who recounted an incident of rudeness that never happened.

7. Bail on the boilerplate. A rash of reviews written on the same day, the appearance of the same review more than once, and reviews that repeat the full name and model of a product several times, are tell-tale signs that a template is being used to crank out false critiques, Frietchen advises. Avoid them.

Everyone's a critic, the old saying goes, but not all critics are who you think they are.
Also See: How the Buyer Should Beware


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62 Comments

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char22

YEP IS UNETHICAL AT BEST. AT WORST I WOULD HAVE TO CALL THEM CON ARTISTS. To know the truth go to Google type Yelp unethical and learn…..That tiny little gray filter button that allows you to see the bad reviews, you will not know about till after you have been burned and investigate it more.
YELP filters bad reviews and it harms the consumer from making a proper assessment of any given company. It also changes the average of the ratings drastically. This does not help the consumer make a wise decision. In fact it is misleading.
If you see negative reviews I read on Google it would be only if a business owner stopped paying his $300.00 to keep up the positive reviews only. I tried dealing with Yelp directly on this but they just divert…. This should be illegal. You will only find the filter button IF you know about it, which means many things it is calculated to favor a business that pays, that the consumer takes a huge risk and when they get into a problem, and begin to investigate, they learn about the filter button.

I am in if there is a class suite.

September 19 2012 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kanga Reports

Great article and good to get the word out that not all reviews can be trusted! A simple way to solve this problem is if users include a copy of their receipt or other proof-of-purchase with review That is an extra step but it ensures that all reviews submitted are legitimate. So would users do the extra work in order to get access to a source of truly verified reviews? We're here to find out! Drop us a note - any feedback would be appreciated. http://kangareports.com

April 10 2012 at 1:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kanga Reports's comment
viktor_troska

Thats a lot of extra work technically.

Companies like yotbo or FBK.IO offer social verification via networks and algorithms etc.

September 25 2013 at 12:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chatmeter

Great article! It is always beneficial to know if an online review is real or not. I wonder if the average consumer is aware that there may be fake reviews on these types of sites. Thanks for posting.

October 31 2011 at 3:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brendon Guiznot

Some websites, like Amazon.com, love fake reviews, especially by a gusher like "Harriet Klausner." Every book to her (wll, 99.8% are 4 or 5 stars) and she reads and reviews an average o over 10 A DAY!

Despite being called on publishing fake Harriet Klausner reviews for a decade, Amazon continues to perpetrate the fraud. Why? It's good for Bezos' bottom line. And that's all that is important to a corporation.

October 09 2011 at 1:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tarilop

Thank you dailyfinance for this article, Thank you aol memebers for comment's.
Well it's same Help, But there is more than seven way's, just try GRC

http://www.grc.com

Everyone's a critic, the old saying goes, but not all critics are who you think they are!

October 08 2011 at 5:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
khm

I will be amazed if YELP doesn't end up a class action suit. You can't "edit" reviews without rendering or altering opinion which may be detrimental to a business and result in libel (because it is an untrue representation). Think about it, if you delete 27 good review and 2 bad ones, as mentioned below, you are skewing information against a business and creating negative press. If this causes the business to lose customers and money, you are libel.

October 07 2011 at 10:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
boarsnest9

Intresting ! Very intresting ! Good advice is hard to come by on
the net . many thank's !!!

October 07 2011 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Harlo

Bogus reviews drive me nuts, and seem to be especially prevalent on certain sites. And as many have noted, filtering is a problem too. In contrast, www.intheloop.cc, which is a brand new Facebook app, allows you to review anything but just for your FB friends (or everyone if you so choose). But you have to be a real person and you cannot be anonymous. In full disclosure, I'm one of developers. We don't filter negativity, just obscenity.

October 07 2011 at 4:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tan247

I give five star reviews if I buy a product that I am overly pleased with. There are customers that have no complaints with things they buy. That doesn't automatically mean their review is 'fake'. I read all reviews regardless of the number of stars. The lengthier more detailed reviews that do not appear to be fluff are what stand out most to me.

October 07 2011 at 4:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
keval

perfect!!!! very well said!!! excellant thinking!

hehehe... this is a real review and i tried to breach their first 3 criteria! but yes, genuinely its gotta be worth the cost [ including suppressing a few real one reviews ].

October 07 2011 at 2:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply