Anatomy of a Fake Review: 8 Ways to Identify One

Adam Vagley @goodmigrations

Anatomy of a review
As you may have guessed from previous posts, we care a lot about making sure the reviews here on 
GoodMigrations are legit. There are all kinds of ways to filter out fake reviews, but the best police, in my opinion, are still humans. You develop an eye for fakes. I’ll use this post to illustrate how.

So let’s dissect what I think is an international moving company that posts fake reviews on its company page on Yelp. I’m going to pick on Yelp here for a couple reasons. First, they’re popular so most people know who they are and second, they have pretty sophisticated filtering software for removing suspicious reviews. Most of the reviews for this company have been filtered, so hopefully it’s only a matter of time before the rest get flagged. Note that none of the factors below are incriminating on their own. It’s only when taken as a whole that they raise suspicions.
1) Irrational exuberance for the company
I’ll be the first to admit there are some fantastic companies out there that knock customers’ socks off; companies that customers love. Think of Apple fanboys, Harley Davidson enthusiasts, or disciples of Louis Vuitton.  Even in the world of moving, some companies consistently provide good service. But every single review is five out of five stars. No one had anything they wanted to improve? And the written reviews are so adulatory you’d think these guys invented electricity. anatomy of a fake review 
2) Backdating
Steve Jobs isn’t the only person who’s gotten in trouble for this. One review in particular is suspicious because the reviewer backdates his comments, so to speak. He claims he just found out the company had a page on Yelp and was compelled to write a review. No one goes searching for a moving company’s page way after the fact to write a review. I’ve actively sought out expats to come to GoodMigrations to submit reviews, so some of those are bound to be older. But when someone says that they came on their own initiative just to give wonderful feedback? Fishy.Anatomy of a review 
3) Cross contamination
People who get paid to submit fake reviews for one business are generally doing it for others as well. See exhibit A: Midori Sushi has spam reviews from the same people: Bora K, Brian H, Lorna B.
4) Use of English
Not everyone is a native English speaker. People who aren’t native English speakers are certainly allowed to submit reviews of companies. But when someone butchers the King’s yet goes on and on with colorful descriptions and big words, you know they’re working from a thesaurus. This business is avoiding the worst of this, but some of the reviews are borderline.
5) Choice of profile photo
This one is pure laziness. Steve B has a woman’s face as his profile picture. Good ol’ Lorna B has a picture of the trunk of a car. Seriously, that’s what you want as your profile pic? A car trunk? Is that to show where you toss your kidnapping victims?
Anatomy of a fake review
6) Reviews of only one type of company
When someone’s reviewed five different moving companies and nothing else, well, something is rotten in the state of Denmark, to borrow a phrase from the Bard. This rule could be loosened to include lots of reviews of a certain type of company. For instance, lots of reviews of different restaurants from one person isn’t unusual; lots of reviews of moving companies is. How often can someone really need to move? Todd P reviewed I Love Int’l Moving on June 7, May 24, and May 23, and another moving company on May 20. Four moves in a 3 week span. Todd must be pretty worn out.  
7) Reviews of random types of companies
Related to #6. Foodies consistently rate restaurants. Dozens of them. Someone really into nightlife tends to rate lots of bars. So when a person’s reviews are all across the board — a moving company, a crafts store, a tavern, and a violin store — it smacks of fraud. Start comparing who else reviewed these places and you’ll probably find a little bit of #3, cross contamination.

8) Reviews of the same business for multiple locations
Why would anyone review two business locations for a moving company? Out of kindness? I don’t think so. Christopher R, who says I Love Int’l Moving moved him from San Franciso to Spain, reviewed them twice over the course of 6 weeks, once for the San Fran location and once for the Los Angeles location. All his other Yelp reviews are of businesses in Los Angeles. If he lived in San Fran, where are all those reviews? Also, look at the guy’s compliments — all garbage.

If I had to bet money, I’d wager that every single review posted for this company is a fake. The real shame is that maybe this company does offer decent service, but because they post fraudulent reviews, I assume the whole operation is shady. Frankly, I’d like to see Yelp take a stronger stance against repeat offenders. But now that you’re armed with this knowledge, you can evaluate businesses with a more discerning eye.

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