It seems like these days you can shop for almost anything online. Of course, one significant difference between buying online and shopping in person is that online you can’t see and handle an item before you purchase it. Many consumers rely on the ease of online returns, knowing they can purchase an item and then return it if they don’t love it. But even before you order, you probably take a quick look at the ratings and reviews to decide if a product is worth it. But can you really trust online reviews?

The Online Review Scam

So just the word scam should tip you off that something fishy is going on with online reviews. The truth is that online vendors have been battling fake online reviews for as long as there has been e-commerce. Companies pay to flood their products and services with fake five-star reviews. In fact, there have been some scandals in which employees of a company have been required to write fake reviews for the company and its products or risk losing their jobs.

If all this is making you wary of those five-star reviews, you should be. But it gets worse. Companies don’t just pay for bogus reviews of their own products. They also pay for bogus reviews of the competitions, to make their goods and services seem less appealing.

So now you can’t trust the good or the bad reviews. What is an online consumer to do?

Reviews to Look Out For

If a review is over the top, that’s a warning sign it might not be real. No real person writes about an electric pencil sharpener that “This product has changed my life!” That may be a bit extreme, but, in general, be skeptical of gushing reviews that seem overwhelmingly positive.

Also, remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. When you see a knock-off or cheap product and the reviews go on and on about how it’s amazing and just as good as the brand name, take a step back. You know that you get what you pay for, so if you are paying $4.98 for an item that usually costs $40, don’t believe reviews that say the cheap version is just as good as the full-priced item. That’s not to say that you can’t buy cheap knock-offs. Sometimes you don’t need a fancy product. You’d be perfectly happy with a product that just gets the job done reasonably well, and you don’t want to spend a lot of money. That’s fine. But expect to get a cheaper product, and don’t trust reviews that make it seem like you’ll get something else.

TrustDALE Goes Beyond Online Reviews

Step Four of Dale’s 7-Point Review Process is to verify consumers’ experience with the company. To do that, the TrustDALE team uses some well-known resources but also uses some specialized databases that are not as easy to fake. We also do an in-person interview with the company to ensure that they work with the same values that Dale sets for himself, of always treating the consumer the right way.

To find businesses that have undergone Dale’s 7-Point Review Process and that Dale would do business with himself, check out our TrustDALE Certified Services Guide.

Dale's New Book:
Don't Get Scammed: Get Smart!