Online Reviews Losing Value/Can't Be Trusted - Major Problem!


    A few years ago, a large nationwide mortgage bank was trying to recruit us.

    They had amazing technology and a very interesting CEO, so my wife Heejin and I agreed to meet with them to see what they had to offer.

    We researched the company prior to our meeting, however, and were alarmed by the huge number of very negative online reviews.

    We asked the CEO about them and he just shook his head and said: “oh yeah, those aren’t correct; we’re working on it….”

    And sure enough, about a month later all the negative reviews were gone (apparently the firm’s attorneys got the review-site to remove them with litigation threats) and a ton of positive reviews suddenly surfaced on other sites.

    This was even more alarming and it made me wonder how many online reviews can be trusted in general.


    My concern about fake reviews is clearly shared by many others, as the WSJ has had two recent articles about the issue.

    Have Online Reviews Lost All Value?

    Shoppers: Beware of Fake Five-Star Reviews!

    As always, we can share key excerpts with non-subscribers.

    Reviews that are posted on a company’s website instead of on a third-party review platform are the most suspect for obvious reasons.

    Reviews on sites that make no effort to filter fake reviews are also fairly suspect.

    Also suspicious are reviews on “quid pro quo” sites like Uber or Airbnb where riders or renters are afraid to post bad reviews b/c they fear retaliation by drivers and owners.

    The biggest problem is with retailers who hire overseas “review generators” or even bots to create massive numbers of fake reviews.

    Sephora has come under suspicion, as have Amazon and Walmart, which simply imports reviews from other websites.

    Amazon insists their AI has since solved the problem but some sites that analyze reviews remain highly suspicious.

    Best Buy tends to have the most reliable reviews, according to the WSJ.


    Authentic reviews matter so much b/c they are one of the only ways upstart firms can compete against established firms with substantial branding power.

    JVM is a perfect example, as we live and die by our authentic reviews. They are what allow us to compete against “big banks” with enormous brands and … horrible reviews.

    This is why we rely so heavily on third-party review sites like Yelp and Google, and it is why we no longer post reviews internally on our website (apparently people didn’t trust the three reviews left by my Grandma and the two left by my Mom 😊).

    Say what you will about Yelp, but in this day and age of massive fake review-farming, Yelp reviews remain the most trustworthy.


    There are two companies that consumers can use to see if positive reviews are authentic – Fakespot and Reviewmeta.

    Interestingly, I ran JVM’s Yelp reviews through Fakespot, and we scored “90%” or an “A.” It was interesting b/c I am certain our reviews are 100% authentic, but maybe 90% is as high as the model scores?

    The other problem with these sites is that there is no way of knowing how many bad reviews were suppressed in some way like the mortgage company I mentioned above somehow did.


    Reviews remain extremely important, as consumers continue to rely heavily on them – particularly if they are dealing with a company that lacks a lot of brand-presence.

    The key of course is to establish authenticity.

    I will discuss ways to garner more reviews and the best sites to use on Wednesday.

    In the meantime, I will share “Five Tips” for spotting fake reviews below.

    How To Catch a Fake / Five tips for spotting a shoddy online review (taken directly from the WSJ article referenced above)

    1. Not everything that glistens is gold.
      “If you look at an item’s breakdown, and everything is five-stars, and there’s hundreds of them, that’s a red flag,” said Saoud Khalifah, CEO of FakeSpot. Instead, a mix of ratings, from one to five stars, suggests the reviews may be more authentic.
    2. Bad reviews can’t always be trusted, either.
      When Chris McCabe, who runs a consultancy for Amazon retailers, needs to use online reviews, he stays away from those that seem very repetitive and “total slams” that don’t mention both pros and cons. Both indicators can suggest a fake.
    3.  Not all online retailers are created equal.
      Yelp has one of the most aggressive review-monitoring systems. Consumer alerts pop up on some business’s pages warning customers that the venue may be engaging in review manipulation, based on suspicious activity.
    4. Don’t give in to influence.
      The FTC’s guidelines for online influencers are strict. Hashtags like #ambassador or #sp (for sponsored post) aren’t sufficiently clear. If they were given money or free products, they’re legally required to make it unambiguously clear. Follow those who do.
    5. Basic writing and grammar skills are key.
      If you look at a critique’s grammar and spelling, “you can figure out if it’s originating from a review farm in Asia,” said Mr. Khalifah. “If to English speakers, [reviews] don’t make sense, that’s a really telltale sign something is off.”

    Jay Voorhees
    Founder/Broker | JVM Lending
    (855) 855-4491 | DRE# 01524255, NMLS# 310167

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