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Fake Amazon reviews more prevalent than you think

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More than two thirds of Canadians have made purchases using Amazon and about two million are currently full-time Prime members.

Today and tomorrow, many of those members will be looking for deals during the Prime Early Access Sale.

But if you are, you may want to be careful when reading certain reviews online.

Fake reviews are a growing problem and a new study by INFORMS, studying the impact of fake reviews on sales, found it’s a bigger issue than many people realize.

Assistant Marketing professor Brett Hollenbeck, at the University of California in Los Angles, said sellers of some products will buy fake reviews or they give free products to anyone who gives their items a positive review.

The sellers buying fake reviews are quite brazen with their activities.

"It's clear that a very large area of products are using fake reviews and they get a boost in sales after buying fake reviews,” Hollenbeck said.

According to Hollenbeck, most major brands don't take part in fraudulent reviews, but smaller, lesser known brands will use them to try and gain an edge in the marketplace.

"If the brand is someone you have never heard of then there is a very good chance they are using fake reviews and the reason there are so many fake reviews is that it's quite profitable and it's not being closely regulated by Amazon," said Hollenbeck.

CTV News Toronto reached out to Amazon and a spokesperson said, “We want Amazon customers to shop with confidence knowing that the reviews they see are authentic and trustworthy. Our policies prohibit reviews abuse including incentivized reviews. We suspend, ban, and take legal action against those who violate these policies and remove inauthentic reviews.”

Kay Dean is the Founder of Fake Review Watch and said it's not just products that have fake reviews it’s also some businesses which will purchase reviews and create fraudulent endorsements to try and gain an advantage over their competition.

“The current environment rewards cheating. It's eroding business ethics and harming consumers. It affects millions of people every day and it’s like the wild west,” Dean said, who added “Review fraud extends across every profession including surgeons, psychiatrists, piano teachers and taekwondo instructors.”

“The amount of review fraud that I have been able to uncover is just shocking and my advice to consumers is just to dismiss online reviews altogether because too many of them are fake," said Dean.

Both Dean and Hollenbeck feel more needs to be done by online platforms to regulate and punish anyone using fake reviews. Often when the reviews are found, they're removed, but little is done to punish the company that is trying to take advantage of the system.

Also, when reading reviews watch out if you see dozens of positive reviews that were all posted on the same day. Many sites like Amazon will also tell you if the person actually bought the product and if they didn’t you may not what to trust what that person had to say.   

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