Speed Reads

don't believe everything you read

5.3 million Amazon reviews are fake, paid for by third-party sellers

Amazon is struggling to tamp down on fraudulent product ratings, BuzzFeed News reported, as sellers continue to find ways to plant incentivized reviews that help boost sales.

Because the e-commerce platform is so competitive, sellers will reportedly deploy a small army of people to write positive reviews for a product, then reimburse and compensate the reviewers in exchange for their time. One expert, who runs a site dedicated to analyzing Amazon listings, told BuzzFeed News that around 9 percent of the site's 250 million reviews, or around 5.3 million reviews, are "unnatural," and may be the product of disingenuous sellers looking to capitalize on a loophole.

Amazon doesn't allow these kinds of reviews and has banned sellers from giving away free items in exchange for reviews. As a workaround, BuzzFeed News explains, sellers instruct people to buy the items themselves, using verified accounts, then pay them back via PayPal or Amazon gift cards. Other platforms like Reddit and Slack allow users to facilitate these arrangements, describing what the seller needs in a review. For example, some sellers will send people to leave 1-star reviews on a competitor's products, which can appear less suspicious than flooding one product with 5-star reviews.

Sellers pay around $4 or $5 per review, and often let users keep the product, which many choose to resell for a profit on eBay. Small business owners who depend on Amazon for sales told BuzzFeed News that the practice can be debilitating, scooping up customers by padding their listings with verified purchases and positive reviews that smaller sellers can't afford or don't want to buy. Read more at BuzzFeed News.