Amazon’s “Fake” Reviews Can’t Be Trusted

Amazon Product Reviews are untrustworthy and shouldn’t be used entirely as your basis for purchasing items. You should ignore the star score and just focus on the text, especially noticing any cons listed. I spent a year exploring the seedy underground of Amazon reviews. Here are my findings: 

How did we get here? Let’s explore some of the history:

Amazon added a review ranking for reviewers. Learn more. This review ranking displays on your profile. Although in 2017/2018 they removed more and more listings on your profile linking back to the review ranking.  Once you’re added to a ladder, it’s understandable that a person might want to know how to increase their ranks on the ladder. Obviously to increase your rank on the ladder you need to review more items. I worked at it one year and I made it into the top 1,000. There are two options here, review items you buy (or buy more items just to review) or get free items. You quickly discover that the top reviewers have either been on there forever, or are obviously receiving free items to review.


People don’t buy items on Amazon with zero reviews. The main problem is that merchants selling items on Amazon can’t sell their items until there’s enough reviews to trigger shoppers to begin to purchase their items, especially 5 star reviews. People click on an item, see that there are no reviews (or sort by highest reviews) and leave the item page if there are no reviews. They don’t want to be the first person to test out an item. 


How do Amazon Merchants Get Reviews?

Obviously the most ancient way of getting reviews is to give items away to review, or purchasing reviews. So that’s what they do. The Amazon Sellers have to sell their items and that’s the only way for them to do it. They can’t wait until someone naturally purchases the item, reviews and reviews build up from ZERO. I think that rarely happens (with no evidence). It’s Amazon’s fault for how they designed the review system. The Merchant’s item has to have 4-5 stars out of 5 for it to sell and it has to have mostly 5 star reviews. The bar for the 5 star reviews has to be the longest. 


Why do merchants mail you after you purchase or include cards in items to email them or give feedback or report any problems?

They don’t want any negative reviews. If there’s some problem with the item, they’ll replace it or give you other free items in trade just to stop you from making a negative review. They’d rather lose money on an item but overall keep their review scores high and make it back by continuing to sell the item to other people. 


Ever make a 1 star review? They go crazy

If you make a 1 star review on item except on big name brands with no individual seller, They email you, respond, trying to do whatever to fix the problem. They offer you extra stuff because they want you to remove that 1 star review.


LINK: Woman blasts an Amazon retailer for urging her to change a one star review


Reviewers prior to the end of 2016 could receive free items and review with impunity. Around the end of 2016 Amazon decided to crack down on free item reviews. Prior to that, people would add a line to their review saying something like “I received this item for free. Etc”. 

But they started banning people who admitted they got the items for free. So people had to take that out and pretend like they purchased the item which is a disservice to readers because they could no longer tell a paid vs. a free review. Banning the people who admitted they got the items for free didn’t work, it just send them underground making it more difficult to tell a legit review vs. a paid review. 


Merchant Paid Reviews

Once you get ranked high enough (top 10,000) the merchants put you into a database and start spamming you with free items. They also seem to be able to tell if you’re active reviewer or not. What they do is have you first buy the item, then they refund it via paypal after you give a 5 star review. Some make you do video or picture reviews. That way you show up as a verified purchase but there’s no trail to indicate the merchant gave you an item for free. Some even do a minor bonus of $1-5 on top of that, which I thought was too low down to ever participate in.


Top 1000 Review Rankings are death sentence

Even if you’re 100% legit in your reviews with only items you purchased without interference, they still are banning reviewers. There’s no process to defend yourself or say hey I was 100% legit. They ban you anyway. It’s super lame. From what I could tell just about every other person in the top 1,000 was banned including most of the people in the top 10. So Amazon has no more love for their real reviewers vs. fake reviewers. We’re all just peasant to them.


Amazon Vine Reviewers

Amazon has their OWN officially sanctioned free items program. They allow you to select from a list of items but you can only get 1-2 a month, vs. the old style where you could get TONS per day. On top of that, there’s no way into their program, you have to be invited. And no one can figure out how to get invited. So even if you want to be a legit reviewer, they give you NO PATH to become a legit reviewer. So it’s their own fault that people do their own paid reviews.


Verified Purchases

Amazon changed it so that it checked the system to see if you were a “verified purchase” and added that on. It then allowed you to review up to like 5 items a week that weren’t shown as verified purchases but then counted those reviews less. 


I noticed merchants will build up a store with a name. Then they get reviews on all their products. Then they shift all the same items to a new store under a new name, and start over with re-labeled stuff, which is likely easily relabled in China or at Amazon. Why do they do this? I don’t know but probably to leave town when the bad reviews on their items start to show up so their next sales are all 5 star reviews again. Also maybe they’re SEEDING perfectly rated merchants for future usage for future items. You can report this and should. 


Super Shady Item Swaps

The shadiest thing I saw was to get a bunch of reviews on an item, then swap the item on the item page so that people are buying a different item on the OLD items page. That way it keeps all the positive reviews. You can report this and should. 


How do you avoid being banned yet still get free items?

Basically review just a few items over LONG periods of time, never rising too high on the ladder or reviewing too many items (1 per month, 1 per 3 months, etc). 


How can I tell what are legit item reviews?

Tip: look at each of the one star reviews. Those are typically the most believable if it’s full of fake 5 star reviews. 


Click on the reviewer and see how they review. If they are all 5 stars, that is suspicious.


Plug the item into:


What can we learn from all this? Amazon reviews and their whole system is garbage of their own creation. Don’t trust reviews, look at the text and ignore the 5/5 star ratings. 


Read More About Fake Amazon Reviews


Link: Amazon shoppers are being conned by thousands of fake ‘five-star’ reviews

Link: Fake Amazon reviews surge around Prime Day

Link: My Surprising Career as an “Fake” Reviewer