I-TEAM: How can you spot a real online review versus a fake one?

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Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- From hotels and restaurants to yoga pants and battery charges, we make many of purchases decisions based off of the reviews we read about a product.

But some are misleading and even fake.

The Federal Trade Commission fined a company for paying for fake reviews last year. This set a precedent as fake reviews are "unfair or deceptive acts" and prohibited under law. Still, it's not stopping companies.

We read reviews for almost everything these days.

Check out these best-selling yoga pants on Amazon: 4 ½ stars with more than 1,300 reviews.

"Buy them," said one review.

"These don't disappoint," said another review.

"These pants are really comfy and the pockets are awesome,” yet another review said.

I don't know about you, but she had me at pockets!

Kimberly Palmer can spot a fake review a mile away. But many consumers are clueless.

"Fake reviews hurt consumers because it tricks you into thinking you are looking at a really great product because you see a positive review, but that might not be the case because they are not real reviews by real consumers,” Palmer said.

That's exactly what's the FTC says Cure Encapsulations did last year. The feds sued the weight loss company for paying Amazon Verified Reviews to flood Amazon with glowing reviews about its product.

"When you are on a third-party website, which sells a lot of third party products, you see a lot of reviews who have been compensated to leave those reviews, so those in a sense are fake -- not real by real consumers who have actually used the product,” Palmer said.

Palmer warns even reviews on major retailor sites can be manipulated.

"When you are on a retailer’s website, they are often can edit and control the reviews very carefully, so you usually only see positive reviews,” Palmer said. “They are real reviews by consumers, but they have taken out the negative ones."

So how can you tell a real from a fake?

"Basically, if you see an overly positive glowing review, that's a red flag that you are not looking at a real review,” Palmer said.

Another tip is to focus on reading the bad reviews. They can often tell a lot about the product.

FakeSpot is a great resource, too. You just plug in the link to a review and it will tell you whether or not they think it's real or fake.