It started with an unassuming Amazon package addressed to me on my doorstep. I hadn’t ordered anything from Amazon in weeks. A gift maybe? Upon opening it, I decided that wasn’t likely.
Inside were a handful of knockoff items from brands I didn’t recognize. A back brace, hair chalk, wireless earbuds, and a lapel mic. All things that might make a nice gift, but nothing I needed.
After phoning Amazon and confirming none of my friends or family had purchased it, I did some online research. Most likely, I was a victim of a new scam called brushing.
In a brushing scam, a seller will retrieve someone’s personal information and “gift” them an item. The seller can then leave a verified Amazon review of the product they gifted. This is one of the scams contributing to the culture of fake reviews that are causing a problem for Amazon.
This begs the question: Why go to all that trouble for a review? The scammer can have their account removed if they’re caught. Businesses that are faking their reviews can have all their products delisted.
But most business owners know why verified reviews are important: reviews guide the course of their brand, particularly verified reviews.
So what can you do to build a bank of verified reviews, and how can you play fair?
If a review platform can confirm that the reviewer purchased the product they are reviewing, that review is considered verified. Reviews sites have different ways of confirming a purchase and signifying that reviews are verified.
For most review sites, you have to submit some proof of purchase to verify a sale, like a bill or receipt. If a company wants to verify reviews on their profile, they can show the review site customer information from their CRM.
Let’s see how this could work in action on some review sites:
You work with a debt relief company. You go to review it. The review form asks you to upload proof of purchase, so you upload a copy of an invoice you received with the company letterhead, date of sale, and cost of the service. It goes through their moderators. Boom! Your review is published with a checkmark.
Verified reviews have an added layer of proof that the reviewer was a real customer. Why would that matter?
The big deal is that anywhere between 10 to 30 percent of online reviews are fake. Customers know that.
And customers don’t buy what they can’t trust. Fifty-four percent of customers say they wouldn’t buy an item if they suspect that the reviews for it are fake. It’s in your best interest to add all the layers of trust you can to incoming customer reviews.
Part of that falls on the review platform that designs how you can verify reviews. Tricky scammers will sometimes find loopholes, like the Amazon brushing scam.
Some review platforms, however, allow you to verify the reviews you gather for their site. For example, if you use Best Company’s BestReviews program to ask customers for reviews, those reviews will be verified because you’ve confirmed that they came from your CRM.
Verified reviews are one extra way to confirm a review is real, and you should take advantage of that opportunity any time you can.
Verified Amazon reviews are purchased at Amazon without a deep discount. This excludes all reviews where a customer receives an item for free for their honest feedback, or even one for 40 percent off. It also excludes all buyers who purchased the product from another site, like the retailer’s own website.
As an additional stipulation, the reviewer has to have spent more than $50 on Amazon. This prevents fake accounts that crop up to review one product.
But you can see how this system has its complications, such as my experience with brushing scams. Buyers could connect with several businesses to give them fake reviews and have them all be verified.
Trustpilot verifies reviews through consumers and businesses.
Companies that use Trustpilot’s invitation links have their review verified when customers use that link to post their review.
Customers can validate their reviews by providing their own proof of purchase, like invoices or shipping notifications.
Yelp doesn’t have a process to verify its reviews (though it can verify business listings). Instead, its barrier to fake reviews comes through filtration. The Yelp review filter prevents certain reviews from affecting a business’s rating and hides them on a business profile. Yelp filters for accounts that have only written one review, comments that have a low word count, and so on.
And if a fake review slips through the cracks, moderators can always catch them if a user reports them, but Yelp doesn’t validate reviews before they go live.
Best Company lets companies verify reviews.
Through Business Suite, companies can send us a customer list to solicit reviews. All reviews that come through these campaigns are verified, because they come from a business CRM after a completed transaction.
Google only verifies reviews for businesses that have products available online. Companies that participate in Google Customer Reviews can opt to send their customers a link to review post-transaction. These reviews will be considered verified.
You can verify a Facebook page, but you can’t verify a Facebook review. However, reviewers have to review with a Facebook profile, so it would be obvious if a user created a fake account to leave you a bad review. Facebook’s verification is its profile proofing.
G2 has two methods of verification: the Validated Reviewer label and the Verified Current User label.
G2’s explanation of Validated Reviews leaves room for imagination: “We require the use of a LinkedIn™ account or verified business email address to validate a G2 reviewer’s identity and current employer. We also validate reviewers by partnering with sellers and organizations to securely authenticate users through select platforms.”
A Verified Current User gives G2 proof of using the software they’re reviewing.
Some platforms let their listed businesses gather more verified reviews. That’s your chance to work with those review sites to confirm customer information and get reviews validated.
You could try your own loopholes, like brushing for verified reviews, but dishonesty will push your customers away and land you in trouble. It’s best to work through the system.
If your chosen review sites only allow customers to verify reviews, ensure that it’s easy for them to do so. Provide invoices and receipts with your company letterhead or customer service information.
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