Amazon Is Filled With Fake Reviews—Here's What to Look For

iStock.com/EricVega
iStock.com/EricVega

Looking at the ratings on Amazon products can help consumers make more informed decisions about what they add to their shopping carts. But shopping smart isn't always as easy as selecting items with a four- or five-star rating: Factors like the length, quality, and number of reviews also make a difference. And with so many fraudulent third-party sellers working through the site, it's not always clear which reviews are trustworthy. For people who feel lost every time they browse Amazon, Lifehacker recently shared its tips for spotting fake reviews.

This may sound obvious, but to get a feel for what you're purchasing, it helps to actually read the reviews. If every review gives the same bland praise for the product without mentioning anything negative, think twice before heading to the checkout page. Some retailers pay people to leave fraudulent five-star reviews on their products in order to boost their ratings and game Amazon's algorithm. Reviews that are no longer than a few words are another sign of such scams.

Looking for "verified purchases" badges on reviews can help you weed out the fakes, but it's no guarantee that a review's authentic: Fake customers sometimes receive the products they've been paid to rate. The best way to determine if the review you're reading is real is to look for personal details and imperfections in the story. Sometimes a three- or four-star review is a better indication of what you're getting than a too-good-to-be-true five-star review.

If all this seems overwhelming, you can also use artificial intelligence to help parse Amazon reviews. The website Fakespot can analyze all the reviews on a particular Amazon listing in just a few seconds, looking for those factors typically associated with deception, like similar wording. It then tells you how many of the available reviews are likely to be authentic.

And if you're really committed to making the best purchase you can, you can always take your research off Amazon. A product that has a similar ratings on a less popular retail site to what it has on Amazon has likely been reviewed honestly. And if you suspect fraud, you can let Amazon know by clicking "report abuse" next to the review.

[h/t Lifehacker]

10 Simple Tricks for Charging Your Smartphone Faster

Makidotvn, iStock via Getty Images
Makidotvn, iStock via Getty Images

Smartphones always seem to reach low power at the least convenient moments possible. If you've ever urged your device to charge faster in the minutes before a phone interview or when you're about to board a plane, you can relate. While the easiest way to avoid this scenario is to plug in your device before the battery dips into the danger zone, if you've already reached this point, there are simple ways to speed up the charging process.

Some hacks for charging a phone faster involve steps you can take in anticipation of the next time you're surviving on minimum energy. Certain gadgets, like special chargers and battery packs, will power-up your device more efficiently than others. For moments when your phone is dying and all you have is your regular charging cable, adjusting your phone's settings to minimize the power it consumes also works in a pinch.

You can find some specific ways to charge your phone quickly below: 

  1. Plug it into a wall outlet instead of a USB port.
  1. Use a portable battery pack.
  1. Buy a special "fast" phone charger.
  1. Switch to low power mode.
  1. Switch to airplane mode.
  1. Let your phone drain completely on its own once a month to the extend the battery life.
  1. Close any background apps.
  1. Stop automatic app updates.
  1. Don't check your phone while it's charging
  1. Keep your phone out of the heat.

For more tricks for making your phone usage more efficient, check out these tips for typing faster.

Does Pushing the Button at a Crosswalk Actually Do Anything?

Pressing this crosswalk button may or may not do something.
Pressing this crosswalk button may or may not do something.
David Tran/iStock via Getty Images

Since crosswalk signals rarely seem to give you the green light (or more accurately, the white, human-shaped light) right after you press the button, you may find yourself wondering if those buttons actually work. The potentially exasperating answer is this: It depends.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that crosswalk buttons aren’t designed to have an immediate effect; they’re just supposed to tell the system that a person is waiting to cross. As CityLab explained, some systems won’t ever give pedestrians the crossing signal unless someone has pressed the button, while others are programmed to shorten the wait time for walkers when the button has been pressed. No matter what, the system still has to cycle through its other phases to give cars enough time to pass through the intersection, so you’ll probably still have to stand there for a moment.

During busy traffic times or under other extenuating circumstances, however, cities can switch the system to what’s known as “recall mode,” when pedestrian crossings are part of the cycle already and pressing the button quite literally changes nothing. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if a particular button is in recall mode, short of calling your city officials and asking an expert to come inspect it.

But if you feel like a button isn’t doing anything, there’s a pretty good chance it’s been permanently deactivated. As congestion has increased and the systems to manage it have become more advanced over the years, cities have moved away from using crosswalk buttons at all. In 2018, for example, CNN reported that only around 100 of New York City’s 1000 buttons were still functioning. Since actually removing the buttons from crosswalks would be a costly endeavor, cities have opted to leave them intact, just waiting to be pummeled by impatient pedestrians who don’t know any better.

What about 'close door' buttons on elevators, you ask? That depends, too.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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