Who doesn’t look at reviews when ordering a product? They can help consumers learn more about an item, whether it be a rave review or a scathing one that points out issues with the purchase.
But it’s important to know that some reviews are fake, written by the company or the people they hire who are paid to be happy about whatever is being sold. That goes for video endorsements or comments accompanied by five stars,
The reverse is also true – bad reviews can be faked by those seeking to denigrate a competitor.
A report last year by the University of Baltimore found that $28 billion in consumer online spending in the United States was influenced by fake online reviews. The largest portions involved travel- and fashion-related reviews, according to the study.
The main advice for detecting bogus or biased reviews is to think critically about the source of the information. Ask these questions, the Federal Trade Commission recommends: “What do you know about this reviewer? Or about the site or platform where you’re reading the review?”
Do some homework to find well-known websites that offer impartial expert reviews about whatever product or service you’re researching, such as Consumer Reports or the Better Business Bureau.
Here are other ways to spot fake reviews, courtesy of the FTC and AARP:
• Check the date of the posting and watch for a burst of reviews over a short period of time. That can sometimes mean the reviews are fake.
• See if the author has written other reviews, and read them to get a better sense of whether to trust that person.
• Before you make any purchase, be sure the merchant has a no-hassle return policy.
• Some websites display a label or badge next to a review written by someone who received an incentive for their comments. It doesn’t necessarily mean the review is fake, but it’s something you should weigh in your purchase decision.
Advertisers that post fake reviews or suppress negative ones are now under the spotlight of the FTC, which is considering updating its rules to address social media platforms. It also has proposed adding a new section covering advertising directed toward children.
The possible changes come after a court settlement earlier this year with the online retailer Fashion Nova LLC. The company agreed to pay $4.2 million after the FTC accused it of blocking negative reviews of its products from its website.
Late water bill call is all wet
If you get a call from the local water authority seeking personal information about a supposed delinquent bill, hang up.
Some customers have reported getting such calls, but the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority does not contact customers in this way, spokeswoman Rachel Stone says.
” … the water authority does not take payment information and would never request personal or banking information over the phone,” Stone says.
Instead, the authority sends notification to delinquent customers by U.S. mail. It makes a courtesy call to those who have set up a payment arrangement but are behind, encouraging them “to make a payment as they normally would,” Stone says.
If you do get a questionable call, let the water authority know at (505) 842-9287, option zero.
Contact Ellen Marks at email@example.com or (505) 823-3972 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1 (844) 255-9210, prompt 5. Complaints can be filed electronically at nmag.gov/file-a-complaint.aspx.