NEW YORK (MainStreet) — VIP Deals may have been called out by various news outlets for offering rebates in exchange for user reviews, but they’re certainly not the only company to garner product praise that’s not entirely genuine.  

“A lot of companies are paying people to write reviews,” says Carl Laron, senior technology editor for product review site ConsumerSearch, but that doesn’t mean all user reviews should be discounted. Here are a few ways to tell if a review might be phony.

The review is too over-the-top.
Readers should be wary of any review that is too complimentary or too pejorative. In fact, bogus reviews intended to sabotage a product can be just as prevalent as paid-for-praise reviews, Laron says. To avoid being subjected to either, he suggests scanning through the three-star or four-star reviews first because those are more likely to contain valuable information. “If the writer is willing to point out some negatives, the odds are, it’s legitimate,” he says.

Multiple positive reviews are posted in a short time. Laron says phony review writers have become better about spacing out reviews. A few glowing and all-too-brief reviews popping up within minutes of one another could indicate they’re not from actual customers, though.

The same review has been posted on another Web site. Sometimes fake reviewers get lazy and resort to posting identical comments on various review outlets. If you come across a review you find suspect, Laron suggests googling some of its text to see if it pops up in other places. Multiple search results are a good indication the review is part of a duplicitous marketing campaign.

The details are notably absent.
Super-short posts are an easy tipoff, but people should also be wary of a longer review or blog post that doesn’t give a clear indication its writer has actually tested the product. For instance, “if the review simply reiterates everything you can read off a product’s spec sheet, you have to wonder if they’ve even seen it,” Laron says. Instead, look for hands-on details regarding the product’s performance, such as how easy it was to install and much noise it makes.

The only thing worse than a bogus user review is a bogus product. Check out this MainStreet roundup to learn how to spot counterfeit items.

—Jeanine Skowronski is staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach her by email at, or follow her on Twitter at @JeanineSko.