7 On Your Side: Tips for spotting fake online product reviews

NEW YORK (WABC) -- It is one week until Christmas, and in the frenzy to finish off gift lists, you are probably relying on reviews posted by others recommending or not recommending products.

How trustworthy is this input? People tend to skip over the 1 star reviews and shoot for products with 5 stars when considering everything from crockpots to restaurants, and certainly hotels. But did you know some reviewers are written by "professionals" paid to push products?

"The average consumer thinks that if it's a verified buyer, it's really someone who bought the product," The Corporate Agent CEO Angelique Rewers said.

The Corporate Agent advises small businesses, and Rewers believes fake reviews are hurting the retail landscape as a whole.

And she warns consumers not to be fooled when you see "Verified Buyer."

Phony opinions are grown on fake review farms based in China and will always be "verified" and "5 star," plus include a call to act like, "Get yours now! Must buy! Buy now!"

Next, look for over the top phrases if you see shampoo, a pen, or a cell phone charger, and it says, "This is amazing," or "The best product ever bought off Amazon." It's just out of whack for what the product is.

Rewers warns to watch out for statements that read more like marketing material. Things like, "It's perfect for when you come to town for a romantic weekend with your significant other," are just not things the average person is going to say.

Fake reviewers usually write "in my honest opinion" and will repeat the product's full brand name over and over.

"They're doing that for search engine optimization," Rewers said. "If you start seeing this complicated name of a product and it just says, 'I purchased this rice maker and it's the full name,' it's probably not an authentic review."

More red flags are if you see grammatical mistakes or a bunch of extra characters. That's a sign of cutting and pasting by a fake reviewer.

Research usernames by clicking on the user profile. If you see tons of 5 star reviews, you can usually guess they're done by "professional" reviewers.

If want to check, email the reviewers. Usually, real people are happy to respond. Real reviewers usually have a profile picture, but fake buyers will not show their face.

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