Are online reviews costing you money?

What’s your first stop before making an online purchase? If you’re like 70 percent of Americans who shop online, you probably check online customer reviews. While that’s not a bad strategy, consumers should be skeptical about the origin of those reviews. Here are some tips for evaluating the authenticity of online reviews.

Check the source
Some websites have few standards for reviewers while others require proof the reviewer purchased a product or service. Check the reviewer guidelines of each website so you have a better idea of how reliable the reviews may be. For example, one online retailer marks reviews with a “verified purchase” mark. This way consumers can tell if the reviewer has had actual experience with a product. Raise an eyebrow over any review posted by an anonymous author.

Watch out for overly enthusiastic reviews
If a review bubbles over with excitement, you may want to exercise caution. Experts say great enthusiasm without restraint may be a sign the review is deceptive.

It’s all good or all bad
Businesses or products featuring a wide difference in their reviews are a red flag. One-star reviews mixed with five-star reviews may indicate artificial positive comments written to offset poor ones.

Watch the dates of the reviews
If multiple positive reviews fall within a close date range, there’s a good chance the reviews are made up.

Check the language and details
Another hallmark of false reviews is the failure to include details and use of vague descriptions. These online reviews may also include statements that sound more like a sales pitch than a genuine review.

True review
Researchers at Cornell University developed software that uses language analysis to detect whether a hotel review is truthful. The free service boasts 90 percent accuracy in its identification of fake reviews. To test a review, simply copy the comment and paste it into reviewskeptic.com.

Second opinion
No matter what, experts suggest online shoppers visit other review sites to check out what other users have said. If there are stark differences of opinion between the two websites, be skeptical of the product or business.

Check first, buy second. Follow these tips and you’ll likely make the best purchase your money can buy.

Article provided by Local Government Federal Credit Union.