September 7, 2020
Amazon’s top reviewers in the UK have been engaging in fraud; they gave thousands of five-star ratings in exchange for free products or money. Amazon took down several 20,000 product reviews, followed by an investigation from the Financial Times.
The number one Amazon reviewer in the UK, Justin Fryer, leaves a five-star rating once every four hours in total in August. Many of the reviews were for products from different Chinese companies. Then, Fryer seems to have resold the merchandise on eBay.
These scams typically start on social networks and messaging apps like Telegram, where a company can meet potential reviewers. When the connection is successful, the reviewer gets to choose a free product; afterward, they wait a few days to write a five-star review. When the review is posted, they will get a full refund and, sometimes, a superfluous payment.
There is a specific rule in Amazon against posting reviews in exchange for “compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products) or on behalf of anyone else.” But 9 out of 10 top reviewers in the UK have broken that guideline, participating in suspicious activity. The 20,000 reviews that were deleted were from seven of the top 10 reviewers.
Early in August, Amazon has been alerted about Fryer’s Activity. One Amazon user reported the man’s questionable ratings to CEO Jeff Bezos. The user was told that the company would investigate. However, it failed to take action until now.
According to the reports, Fryer says that he did not get paid to give fake five-star ratings. He also says that his eBay listings for “unopened” and “unused” products were extras.
Nevertheless, this activity is not overly surprising. Over the years, Amazon has been worrying about fake reviews. In July, The Markup has discovered that sellers who were involved in various tactics aimed at manipulating their ratings on the platform; this includes “review hijacking,” where old ratings are attached to new, often time unrelated products.
In these times of pandemic, as more people are shopping online, the problem has gotten worse. According to Fakespot, a firm that analyzes rating fraud, 58% of products on Amazon in the UK have fake reviews in May. “The scale of this fraud is amazing,” Fakespot CEO Saoud Khalifah told the Financial Times.
An Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the company analyzes reviews before being published in public, they process 10 million submissions weekly.