November 30, 2023


Small Business News from NTSI

Just 8% of UK can spot a fake review online; experts advise on how to protect yourself from review scams

New data and guidance has emerged on the number of consumers and business owners being targeted by fake reviews and how we can protect ourselves against them. The story comes from the experts at Feefo, who provide a review platform for businesses.

Recently, the BBC exposed that many medical clinics have been buying fake Google reviews to boost their online profile. Feefo has accordingly commissioned a survey to over 2,000 UK consumers and 500 small-business owners to find out how the UK is being affected by this growing problem.

The full guidance can be found here:

Feefo’s research shows that:

Despite 97% of UK consumers reading online reviews before they make a purchase, only 8% of consumers are confident they could actually spot a fake review

Almost half of all consumers said they had ended up buying inadequate products and services after reading fake reviews online. A quarter (24%) had ended up with faulty items, while a fifth (20%) bought something that was actually dangerous.

40% of businesses said they had been negatively affected by malicious feedback.

21% of all businesses surveyed said that they had been impacted negatively by fake reviews more than once.

Manufacturing companies were the most frequently targeted by fake reviews (70%), followed by financial service providers (62%); architecture, engineering and construction businesses (59%); legal practices (56%); and retail and leisure businesses (51%)

More than a third (36%) of people in the UK don’t trust the reviews they find on open platforms, such as Trustpilot and Google Reviews. This rises to half (49%) of younger, ‘Gen Z’ consumers (aged 16-24).

Two thirds of people said that if they knew reviews had been officially reviewed and verified, it would positively influence their buying decisions. However, two fifths (41%) couldn’t accurately describe a verified review – rising to nearly half (63%) of older respondents (55 years old and above).

Off the back of these statistics, Kim Burgess, Chief Customer Officer at Feefo has provided business owners and consumers alike with advice on how to spot a fake review to avoid scams:

“The most obvious sign that a review is fake is if it is about the wrong product or service, but you should also check the reviewer’s identity. Business owners should check if the reviewer’s name appears in their records, as an absence suggests that they aren’t a genuine customer. Reviews filled with industry-specific jargon, beyond a typical customer’s usual vocabulary, may also signal that it’s left by a competitor rather than a genuine customer.

Consumers can also look at the reviewer themselves and the other reviews they’ve left; if they’re all the same or are strikingly similar, there’s a big chance they aren’t a genuine customer.

Poor writing or lack of emotion can also be a key indicator that the review isn’t legitimate. If it has lots of spelling mistakes, formatting issues, or reads like it came from an AI, it could be a clue that it’s fake.

Generic reviews that are overly positive or negative and don’t mention any specifics are immediately suspicious. If customers have had an exceptionally good or bad experience with a company, they’ll likely want to leave some details. Our research shows that 52% of consumers get suspicious if there are no negative reviews for the product or service they want. In fact, products with a rating of 4-4.9 stars are more likely to convert than those with only glowing 5-star reviews by a whopping 173%.”

Kim added some additional advice for businesses who may be wondering how they can prevent these reviews from happening in the first place:

“Unfortunately, companies can’t control who does and doesn’t leave reviews on open platforms like Trustpilot. They can ask for fake reviews to be taken down, but by then the damage to their brand may have already been done. However, if a company uses a verified review provider, like Feefo, it can be sure only real customers are giving genuine feedback. This means businesses can confidently use the insights they get. And with over 60% of consumers saying their buying decisions would be influenced by reading a review if they knew the platform had vetted its origin, verified reviews let them shop with confidence too.”