It is not the first time that we have heard of reviews bought by offering discounts or free products in exchange, but this time a well-known Chinese electronics company has also gotten involved. The company was in fact banned by Amazon after the discovery of a database of fake review data for Aukey's products . The company, among the giants of the electronic market, is not the only one to have been indicted, but the closure of its account is causing a sensation.
Amazon's Fake Review Database: The Scam
A database with 7GB of fake reviews on Amazon and more than 200,000 users involved : these are the numbers of the data breach identified by Safety Detectives which exposed the practice of buying reviews by various companies. Aukey, Mpow and Tomtop are just a few of the names that have disappeared from e-commerce , along with other Chinese brands. Seller accounts have been closed and it is no longer possible to purchase their products on the platform.
To get positive reviews, companies sent a list of products to reviewers, asking them to rate them 5 stars. Users then purchased the product and left a positive review after receiving the item, as is normal practice. Once the review was approved by Amazon, buyers sent their profile and PayPal details to the company that requested the review, which then refunded them. Since this process took place outside the e-commerce platform, it did not arouse any suspicion among the site moderators.
The more positive reviews a product has, the higher it appears in Amazon search and recommended. The goal of the companies that bought reviews was just that: to make sure that their products were among the first results, so that more users would buy them. Obviously, the buyers were the losers, unaware that the good reviews were false, therefore convinced that they were buying a good product. In the case of the 3 companies mentioned above we are talking about bluetooth headphones, chargers, keys, mice and many other electronic devices.
The breach data
There are 13 million records relating to fake reviewers, equivalent to about 7GB of data. The information was on an ElasticSearch server without any kind of password and not encrypted . The database contained messages exchanged between companies and users, containing personal data of the latter and various details on the offending companies. These include information regarding the email addresses and telephone numbers used to communicate with reviewers. Among the public data of users there are links to Amazon profiles and product reviews, emails from PayPal and personal accounts, and different usernames that identify the user on various platforms (for example Telegram, another channel used to communicate in addition to emails) .
The server is located in China, and most of the companies requesting the fake reviews were Chinese. Many of the indicted companies had already been banned from Amazon in the past , but had created new accounts to be able to sell their products and request ad hoc ratings from users. In addition to the sellers, the reviewers themselves could get in trouble, even paying penalties of up to $ 10,000. Amazon could decide to go through legal channels : in this case the practice of buying and selling reviews would constitute a crime and the perpetrators would be prosecuted according to the laws of the country of residence.
Identify fake reviews
Fake reviews harm all consumers, leading them to buy products that do not offer the quality claimed by the ratings. How can you protect yourself? There are a few simple steps that can help spot a fake review:
- be wary of "extreme" reviews . A product that only has reviews describing it as “perfect” must arouse some suspicion. The more varied and detailed the assessments are, the less likely they are to be fake;
- analyze the language used in the review. Generic phrases? Words not in common use? If the language seems to clash with what you expect from a review, be very careful;
- check other account reviews . If a user leaves extremely positive reviews for many items from the same seller, they are probably not legitimate;
- inquire about the seller . A Google search can often be enough to determine if the seller is trustworthy and if their products are of quality.
Amazon Article Suspends Aukey: Thousands of Fake Reviews Discovered Comes from Tech CuE | Close-up Engineering .