Amazon’s most trusted reviewers in the UK seem to have engaged in fraud by leaving thousands of five-star ratings in exchange for money or free products. Following an investigation by the Financial Times, the company took down 20,000 product reviews. Justin Fryer, the number one Amazon reviewer in the UK, left a five-star rating on average every four hours in August. Many of the reviews were for random Chinese products. Fryer then sold the products on eBay.
Scams like these usually begin on social media and messaging apps like Telegram where companies have the opportunity to meet potential reviewers. Once the connection is established, the reviewer picks a free product, then waits a few days to write a five-star review. After the review is completed, they get a full refund and sometimes an extra payment.
Amazon has a clear rule against posting reviews in exchange for “compensation of any kind or on behalf of anyone else.” However, 9 out of the 10 top reviewers in the UK broke that guideline, engaging in suspicious activity. Of the 20,000 reviews removed, seven were written by the top 10 reviewers.
The company became aware of Fryer’s suspicious behavior in early August. At least one Amazon user reported his findings to CEO Jeff Bezos. This user was told the company would investigate, although it did not take action until recently. Fryer maintains that he did not get paid to post fake five-star ratings and states that his eBay listings for “unused” and “unopened” products were extras.
Even if he is telling the truth, this activity is not surprising. Fake reviews have been a major problem on Amazon for years.
In July, The Markup found that sellers were engaging in a variety of tactics aimed at manipulating their ratings so old ratings would be attached to new unrelated products. During the coronavirus pandemic, this only got worse as more and more people turned to online shopping. In fact, in May, 58 percent of products on Amazon in the UK seemed to have fake reviews.
Amazon still remains confident in its ability to spot fake reviews stating that “the company analyzes reviews before they go public, processing 10 million submissions every week.”