How Big a Problem is Fake Reviews and What Can Consumers Do to Avoid Them?

By now, we are all aware that there are less scrupulous businesses that post fake reviews, but what you may not be aware of is just how prolific fake reviews are. A recent article (Nov 6th 2019) by BrightLocal cites the following statistics:

• 74% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year
• 89% of 18-34-year-olds have read a fake review in the last year
• One in seven TripAdvisor reviews could be fake
• 61% of electronics reviews on Amazon are fake
• 55,000 fake reviews are generated on Facebook per month
• UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) estimates fake reviews potentially influence £23bn of UK customer spending each year

Fake reviews are a serious problem not only for consumers but also honest businesses, and there is not an effective way for review platforms to combat them.

What can we do as consumers?

Review platforms and business competitors will tell you to report suspicious reviews to the host platforms, and the platforms would punish or ban businesses that purchase reviews. However, fake reviewers are getting more savvy, and it is not easy to spot them. If they were easy to spot, then the statistics shown above would not be so pervasive.

Of course, one solution is getting recommendations from people you can trust. For one, this will effectively eliminate the concern of fake reviews, and, if enough people are avoiding ratings from the general public, fake reviewers would be in less demand. Businesses would then be able to focus on good old fashioned customer service to get their customers to tell their friends.

But for most of us, we do not know enough people to get sufficient coverage of all the types of places and products we would like to get recommendations for. For example, what if you wanted to find a good, authentic Korean restaurant in Hong Kong? What are the chances your friends, accessible to you now, know most of the Korean restaurants in Hong Kong? Chances are they know a few Korean restaurants and perhaps one they consider authentic, but there could be others that are better. Our immediate circle of friends generally does not have first-hand experience at a sufficient number of establishments for us to feel that we would get comparably-good recommendations.

We believe the answer is in participating in a trusted community where you can share recommendations.

Asking community members for recommendations is evidently effective. Just look at Facebook Groups, Reddit, and Quora to name a few. Asking community members enables users to get more trustworthy recommendations as members of a community are not anonymous – instead most communities require invitations to join – and there are usually large numbers of members in communities. Further, communities tend to attract members who share similar interests, values and lifestyles. Therefore, recommendations from members of the same community tend to be naturally aligned with the requester’s interests, values and lifestyle.  

We created the Bumping App so that we can feel safer about recommendations. The Bumping App fosters communities of like-minded people to share recommendations on places, services and products, and curates the recommendations so that finding what you are looking for and discovering things and places that interests you are trustworthy, easy and fun.