I had been hearing about “Fake Reviews” for quite a while now, but I never knew exactly HOW it worked. I just *assumed* it meant that a friend or family member posted a 5-star even though they never actually bought it. I had no idea how wrong I was and how complex the scam was...
Well, let me tell you…. I busted this scam wide open and how it works blew my mind!! It took me almost 6 months to blow the lid off this racket, but here you go!~
On Amazon, I am in the “Top 20,000 Reviewers”, because I buy a lot of sh*t, therefore I review a lot of sh*t. I am usually somewhere between top reviewer #7,500 - #19,500, depending on the month and how much crap I buy, LOL. But for unknown reasons, Amazon makes this information public, so, the “scammers” contact me nonstop to ask me to leave them (bogus) 5-stars. Here’s exactly how the scam goes down:
So these fake-review-seekers contact us through Facebook messenger all the time. We get no less than 6 a DAY (technically, night!) of these "inquiries" and since these 5-star-beggars message our COMPANY Facebook account, if we don't reply within 15 minutes it hurts our "Facebook Company Response Time". Prior to being on the Amazon Top 20,000 Reviewers List, we had a perfect Facebook Response Time and were allowed to display the "Facebook Response Time Badge" BUT since Chinas time zone is 12 hours ahead of Michigan, midnight here is noon there, so these China review-scammers are literally DESTROYING our companies "response time" due to all of these middle-of-the-night bogus inquiries. It's devastating to wake up to see you have 12 "unanswered messages" that have went 6 HOURS each without reply and therefore dropped our "response time" to "7 HOURS AVERAGE"... then you read the messages and they're all China Amazon sellers seeking 5-star reviews. ARRRRGGGGHHH!!
When they contact you, they are somewhat “cryptic”; meaning they don’t usually come right out and say “Hi, I’m looking for fake reviews!”, instead they call it “product testing” or “sampling”, "temp work" or even “paid commission”: In fact, many times they even come across like a normal customer, asking a basic question about our wholesale products to get us to start chatting, then they flip the switch and expose that their goal is wanting a BS 5-star review, or other times they just come right out with it (at 4am, thus hurting out Response Time):
Eventually, I had enough. I was sick of it and about to delete the connection to BigBrandWholesale's Facebook page from Amazon just to get rid of these people... but then I decided that this is my only chance to figure out WTF the scam is for the sake of telling you about it through this blog. So I took a gamble and responded to this guy. I asked him what he wants me to do. I had no idea what his reply would be but I was expecting the worst.
He quickly responded and sent me a list of his Amazon items that he needed reviews for:
The list was surprisingly large, perhaps 40 items in total. Most of the things were electronics-category; selfie stick accessories, headphones and earbuds, cell cases, keyboard accessories, little gadgets and so on. He told me to go through his list and tell him which item I want “FOR FREE”. Nothing was an actual name brand, let alone "authentic" so nothing appealed to me and everything was REALLY expensive so I picked the cheapest thing; a $37 “Travel UV sanitization light”. I then notified him that this light was the only thing I wanted.
The scam-seller then insisted I must BUY IT through Amazon (Prime) and that he will reimburse me through PayPal AFTER I leave the 5-star review. Hmmmm. I had a gut feeling that something was super wrong, but for $37 it was totally worth uncovering this scam via this blog. I figured the worst thing that can happen is that he doesn't ship and I'll file an A-to-Z complaint, so it seemed I had nothing to really lose.
Nervously, and not really wanting a travel UV light, but excited to write this blog post, I went through with the purchase:
Now let me quickly mention: I do NOT approve of, nor condone, bogus reviews of ANY kind (not good OR bad!). I have worked gosh darn hard for 15+ years for every one of my companies good reviews and I have been utterly devastated by not only bad, but also totally fake bad reviews. I genuinely feel reviews should be 100% honest, even if they’re bad, BUT I truly wanted to know how the F this “fake review scam” works so I had to enter the dark side for the sake of "journalism".
After I placed the order I really wondered WTF I would be shipped. Maybe the scam is that they ship you an empty box??? Or maybe they ship a crappy item? Or maybe they ship something that isn't what the listing shows? I anxiously awaited the arrival of the light, while expecting a thimble, a piece of cinderblock brick or nothing at all to arrive. If you read my post WTF eBay? Fake Tracking Scams! you already know that I am no stranger to Marketplace con artists.
But sure enough, the item came. It was just like any other Amazon item I have ever ordered; packaged nicely, shipped fast, seemingly works well… I mean, it was really a solid item; I'll give props where props are due... I was genuinely confused. Why does this person NEED these fake reviews when this appears to be a beyond-legit, I would even venture to say "NICE", item? So now I was back to thinking the scam must be that the seller won't reimburse me.
I contacted him numerous times between May 30th - June 13th via Facebook Messenger, asking him for reimbursement. He insisted that "Your review has not been posted. I will reimburse you when it's live".
Eventually I decided the scam was indeed that the seller just never pays out. Ok, makes sense; they get you to buy an item AND leave feedback... for nothing; ah-ha! That must be the whole ploy, right?
So I decided to look at the UV Light listing one final time on June 17th, and sure enough, there were my photos of his item and my review! So I took to Facebook to, once again, send the seller a DM to ask for compensation and this time I sent screenshots of the review. I absolutely expected to be blocked. LOL!
Then to my utter surprise...
...the seller really did reimburse me through PayPal:
This scam seller was even kind enough to factor in the PayPal fees to make sure I evened up with EXACTLY what I paid… $37.09. My mind was blown!
So…. the feedback scam is utterly perfect; you buy it, you leave feedback, they refund you. In the end, what happens? YOU RIP THE NEXT HONEST PERSON OFF who just wants a good item. It’s awful. It’s evil. It’s just wrong. I truly felt dirty, disgusting and disappointed in myself. Hell, I never even wanted this light and I genuinely don't even know if it's real or just "smoke and mirrors". I truly felt crappy about it.
The good news came!! Amazon is catching on and they are somehow busting these people! When I went to get screenshots of this scammers profile for you for this article; his profile is 100% GONE off Amazon!! Hooray!:
I seriously was sooooo proud of Amazon and I genuinely couldn't be happier to see that someone scamming the system was ousted and lost EVERYTHING. AND, the icing on the cake is that Facebook ALSO DELETED THIS DUDE! So it just goes to show that CHEATERS NEVER PROSPER! He ended up with giving out a bunch of free products for literally NOTHING.
IN CLOSING…. we have learned a couple things:
1. Tons of 5-star reviews, unfortunately, could mean the item is a scam. It really sucks for honest, hardworking sellers who go above-and-beyond for their buyers to EARN perfect feedback. Like I said, my company has given literal blood, sweat and tears to create 15+ years of happy, repeat buyers. It does royally blow that people may look at our 5-stars and think "this might be fake", but I now understand it; this has truly been an eye-opening experience for me in many ways. I don't know what the solution is, but it was absolutely a big dose of reality.
2. I would suggest ACTUALLY READING the reviews. If 3,000 five-star people are saying things like "Great!", "Just what I wanted", "Perfect!" or "Nice" and NO other details, it's likely a paid-review scam. A REAL reviewer adds details (good or bad). Usually real buyers will give 5-stars and tell you three things they liked plus something they dislike but overall they are happy with the purchase. Don't hesitate to click on some of the reviewers profiles. IF the only thing they are reviewing is China-Electronic-Type-Stuff, chances are they are loading up on this "free stuff scam". Normal people, like me, buy in all different categories:
Although I do tend to only leave 5-star reviews (I always feel so bad hurting a fellow seller), you can see in my reviews that I mention my kids, my husband, my pets, my job, pros and cons lists, etc... because I am a REAL person, with a REAL life, who leaves REAL reviews.
3. And finally, DO NOT EVER, EVER, EVVVVER PARTICIPATE IN THESE SCAMS. Even if you are 100% cool with leaving dishonest reviews, YOU WILL BE ACTUALLY SCAMMED because Amazon and Facebook deletes these people! What are you going to do when the scam-seller owes you $40 but is not deleted off social media AND Amazon??? You are now the proud owner of something you don't want and even if you DO track down the seller, they're not going to pay up when they no longer have an Amazon account.
Since finding out that social media and Amazon deleted this guy, I feel like a better person. That single review was really weighing on my conscience. Please don't ever deceive people, especially for the sake of getting some random item for free. Keep in mind that other buyers really do rely on reviews to decide how to spend their hard-earned money and you really CAN make all the difference by posting honestly!
I'm going to take one more cold shower to wash off the rest of the shame ;)
Happy buying and selling my friends!
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