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.