Scammers are always prowling on social media for their next victim and everyone needs to know how to guard against fake and manipulated reviews.

There’s a whole industry devoted to fake reviews. They’re so common that they likely outnumber genuine reviews by a significant amount, according to Scambusters.org, an online publication covering internet fraud. Firms sell phony comments in bulk for a few dollars a pop and they have at their disposal hundreds of thousands of people willing to write them.

Online comments are a natural extension of “word-of-mouth” marketing, where people share the experiences they had with a product or service.

Studies show that 93 percent of customers read an online review before making a decision to purchase an item, and 91 percent of consumers say they trust these comments as much as personal recommendations.

It would be a mistake to take all online reviews as the gospel truth or use them as the only criteria for evaluating the quality of a product or retailer. On the other hand, one cannot completely ignore online reviews as they give an indication of what to expect from goods or services being offered.

The number of misleading reviews soared in 2020, according to Saoud Khalifah, CEO of Fakesport, a free browser designed to weed out unreliable product ratings.

Khalifah blames the increase in fake reviews on the covid-19 pandemic, which sent buying via e-commerce into the stratosphere and steepened…

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