How Fake Reviews Compromise Trust for E-Commerce Platforms

As an e-commerce platform your main goal is to drive sales and provide a great customer experience. When you do worry about fraud, you likely focus on account takeover. TeleSign provides e-commerce platforms with onboarding protection in the form of verification solutions.We also add transaction and compliance protection later in the customer journey by adding 2FA to certain purchases to protect consumers. It may seem like a fraudster would gain no benefit from mass creating fake accounts on an e-commerce platform when they could seemingly do more damage by hacking an existing account. Today however, we will teach you about how some fraudsters try to game the system through fake reviews.

What are Fake Reviews?

Like so much of the internet today, many e-commerce companies build their platform on an algorithm. That algorithm is put in place to push as many products to consumers as possible. One way they do this is by seeking quality products to recommend in the form of reviews. If a product is highly commoditized, the quality of its reviews can make or break its success. There are generally two types of fake reviews. In order to explain, we'll create two fictional vendors; Dave's Phone Chargers and Mike's Phone Chargers. They sell identical products for an identical price.

Fake Positive Reviews

If the owner of Dave's Phone Chargers wanted to get ahead in the algorithm, he would need lots of five star reviews to move up in the rankings. Mass account creation can happen in a number of ways depending on how stringent the security is on a platform. Free online VOIP numbers, SIM farms, click farms, to name a few. In theory, Dave could even gain access to several burner phones to register new accounts. In this example, let's say Dave pays a click farm a few bucks to mass create accounts that then all leave five star reviews for his product. ‘Dave's Phone Chargers' goes to the front page and now anyone that wants a run of the mill replacement phone charger orders from Dave.

Fake Negative Reviews

In the previous example, Fraudster Dave artificially propped up his own business with fake reviews, but there is another side of the coin as well. He can sink his competitors. Let's imagine in the previous example that Mike's Phone Chargers has organically risen to the top with real customer reviews. Now not only does Dave have to prop himself up, but he needs to drag Mike down. To do this he has all of his fraudulent accounts leave a one star review on his chief competitor. In doing so Mike moves down the algorithm, Dave moves up. Not only is Dave artificially inflating his own demand now, he is fiscally harming another company directly with these fake reviews.

How Do We Stop Fake Reviews?

The best way to stop fake reviews is to stop fake accounts from ever onboarding your platform. In the examples mentioned here, most of these fake accounts were verified using phone numbers of fairly dubious means (VOIP, sim farm, etc.) Fortunately, through TeleSign's robust digital identity solutions, we can help you detect when a fraudster is trying to gain access to your web eco-system. We can detect the type of phone number at registration, build an entire risk profile around that potential user and make suggestions to e-commerce companies not to register that user. No bulk created fake accounts, no fake reviews. Your platform continues to succeed because the sellers are legitimate and are striving to provide a great customer experience for their stakeholders, not buying a fake one with fraud.

TeleSign has been connecting and protecting online experiences for over 15 years. We support 21 of the 25 largest web properties in the world and we're prepared to help you. Contact TeleSign now and learn more about how to keep your platform safe.

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