back to article Amazon says it's all social media's fault for letting fake review schemes thrive

Amazon, which for years has struggled to curb fakery and fraud on its e-commerce platform, has blamed social media companies for undermining its integrity efforts. In a post associated with its anti-counterfeiting Project Zero initiative, launched in 2019, the computer rental and gifts biz celebrated its focus on customers …

  1. heyrick Silver badge

    Fake reviews?

    How about fake products, of which Amazon is so chock full that I simply won't even consider looking there for some things.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Fake reviews?

      Exactly and, when you try and write an honest review about the extremely poor quality of the product your review gets refused...

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Fake reviews?

        Worse, it's effectively impossible to report dangerous products to Amazon, and Trading Standards are already massively overworked (and more interested in fake handbags than dangerous electricals)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fake reviews?

        while I spit and froth at amazon in general (and fart in their general direction), I must say that this is the first I've ever heard of rejecting reviews, and I've left _plenty_ of scathing reviews, none have been rejected? The only business I heard do it, and claim they can so you can fuck off, is argos (so I generally try not to buy from them). Likewise amazon, unless it's a branded product and I absolutely can not find it at similar price elsewhere (and I don't mean a "GENUINE! Sandisk! SD-kard!")

        1. the spectacularly refined chap

          Re: Fake reviews?

          I've probably only left 20 reviews at Amazon but had one rejected. That was on where the item was not as described (chocolates, only half the weight advertised) and looking at the reviews after I purchased I was far from the first to notice this.

          My review commented sure it's a marketplace item but Amazon are aware of the complaints and returns generated. It's fulfilled by Amazon so if they have concerns they can check their own warehouse and see it is not as described. Why are they still allowing this to be sold?

          Review rejected but product still on sale. Maybe I should buy it again and sue for fraud when the wrong thing turns up? They can't say they don't know about the issue but don't seem to be interested in getting their own house in order.

          1. 0laf

            Re: Fake reviews?

            I've never had a review rejected even those that were critical. I did have one Chinese company come back and offer me a refund if I upped my review from 4 to 5 stars. The review was actually quite positive towards the product but I don't often give 5* unless something is exceptional.

      3. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Fake reviews?

        Because I'm a Brit living in France, I write multilingual reviews (French first, of course).

        I have had maybe a third of my reviews rejected, and the system is set up so that they don't even have the decency to write a single line about what the rejection is for, just a link to a crappy web page giving rules, all of which I believe I've followed.

        Personally, I think nobody really pays attention to the comment content, it's just a manual filtering system to prevent obscene stuff ending up on the site. Whether a review is accepted or rejected quite possibly has more to do with the mood and politics of the reviewer than with what the review actually said. And why not? A system where reviews are rejected with no reason and no method of arguing or appealing, it's about as easy to game that as everything else.

        I don't bother with reviews much any more unless there's something actually bad with the product. It's not worth my while to craft a coherent review just to have the bad luck of getting the resident Le Pen supporter who just clicks on the "nope" button. Okay, it's a wild supposition, but about the only thing I can think of given what gets accepted and what gets rejected are essentially random.

        1. N2

          Re: Fake reviews?

          Ditto, tried reviews written in French and English, tried French only but reject 100% of my reviews so I don't bother and prefer - cheaper than .fr and English reviews accepted

          God knows what you have to do to get a review on accepted, perhaps its spambots only?

          1. Shalghar

            Re: Fake reviews?

            Seeing this from my personal point of view concerning french fellows, maybe the spamfilters try and fail to cope with the creativity and ability of french speaking people to invent and augment new insults every second ?

            I have yet to see any automated insult filter capable of blocking a french speaking person from firing insults at any desired rate to any desired target.

            But then again, since you are on the reg, maybe you should never use the word comPUTEr in anything submitted to a french insult filtering device ?

            Nor CONsole, for that matter, or...... well you surely get what i mean . ;)

      4. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Fake reviews?

        I recently reviewed a purchase, which was rejected as I linked to a YouTube video on how to replace the part & to the tools required on a non Amazon external site.

        No option to re-edit, so I refused to redo the review from scratch.

      5. Shalghar

        Re: Fake reviews?

        Depends. One of my reviews vanished without trace, but the offensive product also was never seen again so to play devils advocate, if both vanish at the same time, why host a review for something thats not sold anymore ?

        Fake reviews are really standing out at amazon. Mostly not as gruesome as those smiley-orgy one word gibberish ones in googles Appstore but apart from the 1 star versus 5 star ratio, they also lack any and all relevance towards any description of the "reviewed" product or only consist of completely exxagerated indifferent praise.

        If amazon really wanted to fight those, they would only need to target 5 star entries. But that might make the product look bad and prevent a sale, so the motivation... seems to be not really there.

        I never had any of my reviews deleted or suppressed apart from the aforementioned one and i am openly criticising whats bad and openly communicating that i deduct at least one star for every fivestar review bribe voucher found within the box. If you have to resort to bribing reviewers, your product must have issues or you do not trust your own product.

        Mostly i review to help others avoid buyers frustration. LASERpointers sold as torchlights and vice versa, the consistent issues of cheap microcontrollers like the arduino (comms issues due to cheaper chips like CH340 and such) but also varying from units with or without (correct) bootloader, "special" communications behaviour and similar problems. All those esp based nodeMCU boards are another can of worms, frustrating prospering beginners with issues and total lack of support that should not happen on a supposedly "beginner friendly" widespread platform. Yes, there are enthusiasts all over the net, but any beginner first needs to find the right help for the issue at hand - if its identifyable at all.

        1. Dave559 Silver badge

          Re: Fake reviews?

          There are just so many fake reviews on Amazon (UK) that it's almost unreal.

          And, like spam, they are also nearly always quite easy to spot. Often posted by users with very odd-sounding (ie, very non-British) usernames, far too much effusive praise (in a language almost, but not quite, resembling English, a sure sign of a company stooge writing in not their native language) about how they love the product, or are sooo happy with the company (no real person is ever that enthusiastic about the supplier, "pleased that it arrived quickly" is about as praiseworthy as real people generally get), odd fixations about nice packaging, odder fixations about how they are "sure" this will be an excellent product that is definitely high quality and will last them well, even though they have only had it for a few days (or even "just received it thanks to speedy delivery"). Other signs are an even odder emphasis about how helpful the company's support helpline is (surely virtually no genuine reviewers would actually know this as very very few products are likely to go wrong within a few days/weeks - and, if a larger proportion did, it would be a good indication to steer clear of a shoddy product: "this piece of junk broke down and/or fell apart almost immediately but they replaced it quickly" is not exactly a great endorsement) and, best of all, emphasis on how "unlike rival products" they are sure that it will definitely not overheat and catch fire (!) (an odd thing to note explicitly in a review, since that's a baseline expectation that we would normally have of any product).

          Yet, when you report these reviews to Amazon, they never seem to do anything about them. Or is it whack-a-mole, and new fake reviews for the product keep getting added as soon as they remove others? Or do simply not enough people report (or are able to see through and identify) suspicious reviews to be able to trigger the removal/review-of-the-review process?

          And, while I have no objection to China trying to earn a fair place in modern manufacturing (if they can comply with expected quality, safety, and environmental standards), how come for many product searches, it is only multiple Chinese brands (many/most of which seem to be of variable or indifferent quality (or lack thereof), and I have suspicions that many of these are actually just rebadged products from the same actual factory, so not even genuine alternatives) that you seem to find on Amazon, and very few, if any, known/trusted brands? Yes, many known brands outsource the manufacturing to China themselves, but you would hope they have at least some decent quality controls in place so that the products manufactured for them to their design can have at least some reasonable guarantee of quality and safety?

  2. FatGerman Silver badge

    Accounts *accused of* being fake

    Is it just the wording in the article, or does this imply that accounts are being removed purely on the basis of an accusation, without proof?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Accounts *accused of* being fake

      Probably they are. It's not unusual for companies who handle billions of accounts and millions of fraud reports to operate automatically. Sometimes they'll have an automatic check before banning, sometimes they'll have a good appeal process. Sometimes they won't tell you how or why anything happened and there's nothing you can do about it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazon, which for years has struggled to curb fakery and fraud on its e-commerce platform

    correction: Amazon, which for years has been making and continues to make HUGE PROFIT by letting fakery and fraud run rampant on its e-commerce platform

    1. Chris G

      Re: Amazon, which for years has struggled to curb fakery and fraud on its e-commerce platform

      I would be interested to know what percentage of Amazon profits is from the sale of counterfeit goods.

      I am willing to bet it is not insignificant.

      1. Shalghar

        Re: Amazon, which for years has struggled to curb fakery and fraud on its e-commerce platform

        I would also suggest that any number of faked five star reviews to "help" customers make a choice is not something that amazon would internally criticize or actually fight.

        But then again... "your privacy is most important to us", "only a few customers were affected", etc.

        Every company has paid preachers of purity, without necessarily doing anything advertised.

  4. m-k


    I must say, for the last couple of years, I put my faith in fakespot. Not 100% faith, but i'ts become my the main tool to weed out the usual culprits. Unfortunately, their business model has evolved to the point that they make their profit by - presumably - selling your shopping / browsing habits, i.e. no free checks for you, only a browser 'plug-in'. Which tells me exactly what I need to know about how they make their money. That said, it's hard to blame them, it's not like they're a rich Bezos-man giving away his fortune for free...

    But I must say, without that tool, I've become quite hopeless against 4/5 and 5-star amazon reviews. I mean, sure, one way is to read the negatives, to spot a pattern (it's shite, stay away!), but - as with all things in life - valuable knowledge comes with effort and time. It's ok for higher value products, but not worth spending hours for cheap tat that is occasionally useful (bike lights, etc, etc.). I have taken to aliexpress instead, even with VAT added, cheap crap from China-land is still (up to) half-price cheaper than amazon. Although, recently, I got bike light packed mega-matroshka-style: FIVE grey bags in total...

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Poor little Amazon

    Did its best to resist a consumer information bill under the spurious claim that it favored brick-and-mortar stores, now is moaning about social platform fake reviews.

    Cry me a river. I don't see you losing either money or sleep over this.

  6. David Gosnell

    Is this the same Amazon...

    ... who pop thinly-veiled review invitation cards into their shipping boxes for "fulfilled by" orders, tacitly condoning the practice?

    1. JDPower666

      Re: Is this the same Amazon...

      Asking a buyer to review a product they've just received is not quite the same as paying people to write positive reviews for something they've never owned or used.

      1. David Gosnell

        Re: Is this the same Amazon...

        I can see the room for confusion here.

        What about when they offer almost the entire purchase price back as a reward, and coach you towards those magic five stars before obliging?

  7. naive

    Authenticating users issuing a review using an Authenticator app

    Would make generating fake reviews way harder compared to simply injecting some piece of text.

  8. mark l 2 Silver badge

    From my own years of experience of selling on platforms like Amazon and ebay only a very low percentage of buyers leave a review for a product, especially positive reviews. So if a product is getting more way more than around 10% percentage of buyer leaving reviews then its a good chance they are being incentivised by the seller to do so and so should be investigated. I am not sure if Amazon still allows none verified buyers to leave reviews as well, but if they do then stopping that will reduce the ability for fake reviews.

    And then there is the bias that you cannot leave a 1 star review for Amazon fulfilled product when Amazon fsck up an order, yet 3rd party sellers can get 1 star reviews when they make mistakes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      around 10% percentage of buyer leaving reviews

      by pure coincidence, amazon decided to combine /add up reviews across their localized (uk, de, com) domains. Surely not to boost the positives, eh? They also make it increasingly harder to get to see the negative reviews, by making you jump over numerous hoops. So it goes.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: around 10% percentage of buyer leaving reviews

        And they merge together the reviews for different editions.

        Thus making it completely impossible to figure out which edition is terrible.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      "cannot leave a 1 star review for Amazon fulfilled product when Amazon fsck up an order"

      That sort of makes sense. A review for a product is supposed to be a review for that product, not a commentary on whether or not the person sticking it into an envelope has a functioning brain.

      Isn't there a separate feed back thing for seller competency? (because Amazon never makes mistakes, of course)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reviews are only as good as anecdotes

    Read at your own risk.

    Decide at your own risk.

    Buy at your own risk.

  10. Wolfclaw

    How about Amazon understanding Consumer Laws over product warranties, that the openly ignore and that their script reading droids in customer unservices/unsupport have no clue of!

  11. Martin Summers Silver badge

    The dodgy sellers have moved on somewhat from fake reviews. They now use a decent product with good reviews and switch the product out to something cheap and nasty.

    Better still, that product was sold in another country so you couldn't easily see the reviews without an extra click. As not many people really see beyond the star rating they go ahead and buy based on that.

    I've reported several products for this and to their credit eventually Amazon have removed hundreds of reviews for the old product. Quite simply though, they shouldn't allow an established product page to completely change. That should indicate dodgy behaviour immediately.

    Then don't get me started on companies selling completely different products as different options that are meant to be colour variations all under the same page. Thus combining the reviews. Even big name companies are doing this.

    I know it's a big platform, if Amazon don't invest heavily and quickly in winning back trust then they're going to find themselves in a sticky situation at some point when people simply stop shopping there.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      "in a sticky situation at some point when people simply stop shopping there."

      When there are viable alternatives, that may be a real problem for them. The problem at the moment is that they're so big (and wealthy) that anything attempting to be the next Amazon has quite an uphill battle.

      From my experience elsewhere - lack of stock, lethargic order processing, a fiver (or more) per parcel in shipping, bizarre rules about what can and can't be ordered from another country (that seem to be more about their willingness to ship stuff overseas rather than any sort of import restrictions), plus my favourite, a different country's version of the website has many products simply not available in my country.

      At least Amazon has pretty much refined the process down to "here's an enormous pile of crap, pick something you like, bash on Buy It Now and it'll be with you in (about) two days". It's convenience. Something everybody else seems to lack. So, for the moment, I think Amazon is safe. In a couple of years? Hmm... Let's see.

  12. Martin Gregorie

    Its spreading too

    Just today I noticed eBay sellers are giving themselves names that Duck-Duck Go includes as mis-spelt versions of reputable bricks and mortar sellers.

    Pay attention, eBay: this WILL rebound on you.

    And there was a report on Radio 4 today about similar misdeeds: this time the scammers are using FalseBook and Google accounts to impersonate a genuine merchant, heavily impacting his business as well as committing fraud on the misled punters.

    This is something that the Trading Standards people, both here in the UK and elsewhere, should be paying more attention to than they have done so far, because this sort of brand name and logo spoofing is illegal almost everywhere: even in China, if their regulators can be bothered to get off their arses and do their jobs properly.

    I can see no reason why Amazon, FarceBurk and eBay shouldn't be hit with the fines if they can't or won't identify the perps: after all they issued logins to the scammers, so should know who they are: if they don't know that then fining them seems only fair.

  13. CujoDeSoque

    My Amazon Experience: I'd gotten reviews refused and pulled on a book!

    And so did everyone else who posted a negative review.

    But the 10 positive reviews, some of which are the author under a different name stay up. At one point I wrote a "positive" review that any sane person would see was clearly scathingly sarcastic and it stayed up for months. Go figure. Here's some of the reviews he had Spamazon censor. If you're leery of clicking on a link, you'll miss some fine yet accurate humor. But that's your choice.

    The book really does have 12 indexes and also a 13th index which is all the indexes combined.

    It's followed up by some of the claims in the book, equally humorous but it's clear the author is delusional and Amazon still took their side.

    The reviews that remain up...I'll let you judge for yourself.

    I'll just note he bragged about winning second place in his category at some local book event. There were only two entries in the category.

  14. Cragganmore

    Time to ditch Prime...

    It's really just not worth the benefits any more.. Often find products from the original manufacturers cheaper.

    Reviews - minefield:

    1. Display all reviews (rather than the selected guff Amazon chose to show)

    2. Filter for those that actually bought the item

    3. Filter for the exact product rather than something else entirely that gets grouped in.

    4. Sort by most recent

    5. Ignore gushing reviews

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Time to ditch Prime...

      My technique is to sort by review length. I have to do it manually, but I find that's the most useful way. Someone who writes a long review is either giving a great amount of detail about the product or repeating so much marketing sludge that it can be identified in five seconds. What is most annoying are the "Works great would buy again" reviews or the slightly longer version where they identify what the product is but still don't say anything.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sadly I do use Amazon

    I bought a (for me) expensive Weber gas barbeque a couple of years ago.

    One thing that I was immediately disappointed with was the grilling surface.

    It was pressed steel and didn't have much weight to it. It was porcelain enamelled but didn't retain any heat.

    After a while it deteriorated and I wanted a replacement, a no go from Weber as 'out of stock' so off to an internet search...

    I bought this:

    Much better quality, heavy cast iron and also enamelled.

    I hate amazon as much as the next El Reg reader, but if you can't get OEM parts they can sometimes be the only viable option.

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