Don’t Get Scammed: OSPIRG Draws Attention to Fake Articles and Reviews
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the state transitions to pre-pandemic norms, the rise of online shopping is likely to continue — and with it, the number of counterfeit products and fake reviews to trick shoppers.
To counter these attacks on Oregon consumers, the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) drew attention to the rise in pirated articles and fake reviews, and released a list of tips on how best to spot scams last Friday.
OSPIRG says counterfeit products have ‘creeped into every sector of the economy’, but a recent shift in trends regarding the items online scammers choose to counterfeit poses a serious threat to public health. .
“While counterfeiters focused on fake luxury items, such as handbags or shoes, counterfeit products such as pharmaceuticals or batteries have become all too common online,” the research group said. “Unlike a counterfeit accessory, these counterfeit products can threaten the health and safety of consumers, with some counterfeit pharmaceutical products containing incorrect amounts of active ingredients, and some counterfeit batteries that can overheat and cause fires.”
Here are the best ways to avoid counterfeit items online, according to OSPIRG
- Beware of in-demand items: “If you’ve searched high and low for an out-of-print item, you can’t necessarily trust what you find online,” OSPIRG said. A good deal is not always the safest.
- Check the website listing for clues: According to the research group, many counterfeit listings include spelling and labeling errors in the product description, as well as poor quality product images.
- No age limit: The OSPIRG recommended paying particular attention to age limits for products intended for children and avoiding items without restrictions or age limits that do not correspond to manufacturers.
- Check seller information: OSPIRG suggested shoppers look at seller information for websites like Amazon, eBay and Walmart that host third-party sellers, as well as reviews and other elements to gauge reputation.
- Contact the seller for any questions: According to OSPIRG, a lack of response is a strong indication that the products may not be as described.
- Suspicious low prices. The research group recommended comparing the prices of similar items and beware of the extremely low costs of the stickers.
- Social Media Ads: OSPIRG warned shoppers to look for targeted ads on social media, citing research by the US Trade Representative which found it to be a ‘quick, easy, inexpensive and common tactic’ used to induce consumers to buy pirated products.
- Avoid buying medical supplies online: “If a product will be used in or around the body, it’s best to shop at a physical store or on the company’s website,” OSPIRG said.
- Suspicious packaging: According to the research group, broken security seals, lack of branding or poor quality packaging are all possible indications of counterfeit items.
- Report bad experiences. OSPIRG encouraged consumers to report counterfeit items at www.saferproducts.gov or call the CPSC at 800-638-2772.
See the full list of OSPIRG advice here.
“Counterfeit products can be found everywhere in online marketplaces. Unfairly, the onus is on the consumer to identify these counterfeits. Our advice guides will help consumers unfamiliar with brand logos and product certification,” Fisher said. “But crooks will be crooks. Counterfeit products are here to stay until we have stricter legislation to protect consumers.
In addition to counterfeit items, OSPIRG warns consumers that they should also be on the lookout for fake online reviews that often create a false sense of buyer security and influence purchasing decisions.
“Whether a false review is positive or negative, any inaccurate or manipulative review is detrimental to the consumer who is led to buy or not buy a product,” OSPIRG said. “Spotting fake reviews is tough, but these tips can help sort through the hundreds of reviews that can be found while shopping online.”
Here are the best tips for spotting fake online reviews, according to OSPIRG
- Check the revision dates: According to OSPIRG, many notices published in a short period of time may indicate that they are not real. Therefore, products with a variety of reviews over a long period are a much safer bet.
- Beware of flowery language: The research group cited a Cornell University study that analyzed hotel reviews and found that “real” reviews used direct and concise language, while “fake” reviews commonly used descriptive words designed to paint a scene.
- Avoid products with copycat reviews: It may seem obvious, but multiple reviews using similar language are often a sign of false responses, OSPIRG said.
- Review Examiner: Most websites allow you to view general reviewer information, OSPIRG suggests general names or a lack of reviews may mean the account is fake.
- Avoid social media Despite FTC guidelines, which require influencers to disclose whether they are paid to promote a product, OSPIRG pointed out that many influencers are criticized for choosing not to follow the guidelines and urge consumers to beware. reviews on social media platforms.
- Check if the purchase was verified: According to the research group, reviews from a verified buyer are more reliable than those that are not.
To view the full list of OSPIRG councils, click here.
“Spotting fake reviews takes time, focus, and sometimes research. But it’s worth it for consumers to differentiate between what’s honest and what’s too good – or bad – to be true,” Fisher said “We applaud the Federal Trade Commission’s use of financial penalties to discourage fabricated endorsements and urge the agency to stay tough on companies that use reviews to mislead consumers.”