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Services like ChatGPT will make finding real reviews difficult

Artificial intelligence has been receiving a lot of buzz lately on social media.

Easy access to programs like ChatGPT, which allows users to quickly generate paragraphs on whatever topic they use to prompt it, is going to affect several industries. Online shopping will acutely feel its effects, especially in places like Amazon, Walmart, Yelp and others that rely on users posting their reviews based on their real-life experiences. 

Fighting against fake reviews is nothing new for these online retailers, with Amazon in recent years taking steps to tamp down on inflated 5-star reviews and sellers that paid people to review their products. But the introduction of these AI programs to flood the sites with reviews is going to pose a new challenge.

Of course, we are glad when AI reduces some menial tasks. For example, products, such as robotic vacuums and smart thermostats, are always appreciated. But when technology threatens to mislead people spending their money, shoppers should take a moment to ensure they aren’t duped when making purchasing decisions. 

The threat of AI misinformation is real

If there was one thing the pandemic proved, it was that you can find information online that backs up any argument. Unfortunately, not all of that information is valid or accurate.

Fake reviews give a consumer unwarranted trust in a product, which leads to making poor purchasing decisions. With open-source AI now available, the internet could experience a period where shoppers are inundated with even more unreliable information. Meaning, you must learn a process to find the truth to ensure you don’t waste your money. Basically, you’ll want to be even more careful and be sure to take the basic steps to protect yourself.

5 ways to guard against fake reviews

  • Look both ways: Reviews can be utilized in two ways. They can either be used to lead a consumer directly to a product or to make them unwary of an item. Make sure you read both types of reviews to find consistency.
  • Seek details: Fake reviews often have few details about the product. If the bulk of the reviews are merely “This product is great” or “I highly recommend buying this,” with little-to-no details about the product, do not put a lot of faith in those reviews. 
  • Consider the reviewing process: Hands-on is the way to go. A review that was done by an individual who tried the product in a real-world situation carries far more weight than any other process, such as simply considering the item’s potential based on the product’s specs.
  • Look for a burst of reviews: Since fake reviews are typically performed during a brief window, one of the easiest ways to spot unreliable reviews is to look for an abnormally high amount of postings in a very short time frame (often, as little as one day).
  • Check the reviewer’s credentials: Whether it is an individual or a company, vet that entity to the best of your ability. Seek credentials, cross-reference reviews and look at the broad body of work. Legitimate reviewers are transparent about their purpose and process.

3 ways to avoid online scams

Using AI to mislead consumers can go beyond merely publishing a multitude of fake reviews. AI can be employed to create more convincing scams by combining legitimate information, photos and videos with erroneous information and phishing links. To keep yourself safe, follow these three practices:

  • Stay vigilant: Never share any personal or financial information unless you are absolutely certain you are on a safe, secure and legitimate site. Remember, the entire purpose of phishing scams is to convince you that you are visiting a legitimate site so you feel comfortable sharing sensitive information.
  • Stick with major retailers: If you are uncertain if a product is authentic, buying it from a trusted, major retailer provides a degree of protection.
  • Avoid emotional purchases: If something seems too good to be true, that’s a red flag for a scam. Take a step back and do your research. The same is true if you seem to be getting pushed timing-wise. 

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Jacob Palmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.