Tips to help spot fake reviews online

When you're planning a trip or looking for a good hotel online reviews can be helpful, unless they're fake.

It's not easy, but there are ways to avoid the phony reviews.

Looking for a vacation spot? A hotel?

So was Yejin Choi, but after searching online, she didn't always find the best places.

"There were occasions where I would, for instance, go to a hotel that I booked from online and then it didn't match my expectation," explains Yejin Choi a Researcher.

That's why she joined a research project while studying at Cornell University. She helped develop an algorithm looking for lies.

"It analyzes all the words for the more linguistic patterns, like parts of speech, that you use and then finds out which ones correlate more with fake reviews as opposed to truthful ones," explains Choi.

So what are the "tells"? Yejin warns, watch out for superlatives.

"For instance, luxurious, elegant, fantastic,” says Choi.

Also watch out for overly confident reviewers.

“So you will see more of a 'definitely' and 'certainly', 'for sure', 'absolutely' in those reviews,” says Choi.

Look for vague descriptions.

"The fake reviewers seem to have a hard time visualizing hotels that they have actually never been to," says Choi.

Expedia says it now verifies posts several ways, including "ensuring that the reviews are posted by travelers who have paid for a room in the hotel they are reviewing."

Robert Reid is U.S. Travel Editor for Lonely Planet. He says the good news? The estimated percentage of fake reviews is down.

"Four years ago there was a third, of fake reviews,” says Reid. “Now it's more like ten percent."

The Federal Trade Commission did crackdown in one recent case, taking a fake reviewer to court.

"The claim that she made was so outrageously false that we felt it was necessary to bring a suit against her to deter others from taking similar actions that she did," explains Nur-Ul-Haq, Attorney for the Federal Trade Commission.

But for the most part, it’s consumer beware.

"We don't necessarily go after bloggers or reviewers that talk about travel or products per say,” explains Nur-Ul-Haq. “It's really the advertisers and the marketers that we generally look at."

A new study by Gartner suggested that by 2014, up to 15 percent of social media reviews will be fake and paid for by companies.


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