COLORADO SPRINGS — Online shopping has become a way of life for many of us now. Statistics show hundreds of millions of Americans are doing it daily.
A News5 viewer says he got a suspicious mailer offering him a gift card for an online review and he wanted to know, is it legit?
After you order something online, in many cases through Amazon, you may get a follow up mailer from a seller offering a gift card or free item for a review. Fraud experts say buyer beware.
This story was inspired by a viewer email and picture of this piece of one of those mailers.
Ray in Trinidad sent an email that reads:
“Hi Patrick, hope all is well. I have enclosed a copy of what I received today. Looks pretty legitimate, but I think it’s bogus. What can you tell me?”
Well, it turns out the piece of mail has grammar issues and a misspelling as it offers an Amazon gift card in exchange for proof of an online review on an item Ray recently ordered.
News5 reached out to Colorado State University Global’s “Dr. Fraud” J. Michael Skiba for help in identifying what’s going on here.
”What this breaches on is an area of product misrepresentation because people rely on reviews,” said Skiba.
He says it’s not exactly a scam, but it’s something consumers should be aware of. Companies are sending mailers like this, trying to bribe people for positive reviews.
”I have seen some very disturbing statistics talking about reviews and simply revealing the fact that over half to maybe 60 to 70% have some degree of misrepresentation involved in the review,” said Skiba.
Last year News5 spoke to Al Cazares who owns House Doctors, a home repair company in Colorado Springs, he says honest online reviews are important for his livelihood.
"Well I think people need to know when they look up a company they are getting true feedback and if people are buying reviews, you know, people don't know that," said Cazares. "The business lives and dies by having honest reviews out there and real feedback from real customers."
Federal investigators have worked to crackdown on fake reviews and misleading endorsements, even threatening to fine businesses large amounts of money, but it’s done little to stop mailers like this one.
If you are considering taking a sender up on the pay for review offer, the experts say don’t be surprised if they don’t follow through.
”Some people are doing the reviews and then the companies are not sending whatever they had promised, whether it is some kind of a gift card or compensation. There is very limited recourse for the consumer at that point in time,” said Skiba.
So, if you get one of those mailers you can just throw it away. Remember, if you do respond, be very careful what information you provide the sender.
When it comes to online shopping, it’s clear, we can’t trust every review. Here are some of the red flags to look for to help you spot questionable reviews and some resources that can help keep you safe when you’re shopping online.
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