(NBC - Indianapolis)
When hiring a contractor, going out to eat, buying a computer or selecting a doctor, the first stop for millions of Americans is to check online reviews. Nearly 90% of consumers consult those reviews before making a purchase, according to a recent study commissioned by TrustPilot.
But a 13News investigation shows many of the 5-star ratings you see online are not what they appear.
For example, 13 Investigates examined an Indianapolis locksmith service that displays nothing but 5-star reviews on Google. Of those 147 glowing reviews, a reviewer named James loved the "Fantastic customer service." Krissy found the company "Professional and friendly!" and Noel declared "Best locksmith in town."
Before you get too impressed, take a closer look at the reviewers’ profile photos. Using free online image search tools, 13 Investigates discovered they are celebrities.
The picture of Noel is actually actor and singer Darren Criss. James used a photo of Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte, famous actors in India. And Krissy chose a flattering picture of model and Miss Vietnam winner Jennifer Pham.
The truth is, fake reviews are all over the internet – not just on Google, but on Facebook, Yelp, TrustPilot, Amazon and other popular websites. Fraudulent reviews have become a big industry meant to fool consumers, and most of us have no idea how to tell the difference between reviews that are real and those that are not.
Photo: Getty Image