“I’ve learned never to rely on reviews for anything,” says Iain Taylor, from East Sussex.

In his spare time and to supplement his income, the 44-year-old says he writes fake reviews online in exchange for money and free products.

“I have written reviews from numbing creams to eBooks to downloadable independent films,” he says.

“I think it’s bad – but I think everyone’s doing it,” says Mr Taylor, describing himself as “cynical”.

“Since I started doing it I tell my family and friends not to trust reviews. 

“If you are going to buy something you should do more research than look at a couple of five-star reviews on Amazon.”

He says writers are paid to buy the product and then leave a review, meaning the review can be verified.
‘Too focused on statistics’

Another person, a woman who preferred to remain anonymous, writes fake online reviews of the restaurant where she works – a chain pub in Nottingham.

“I feel like there’s significant pressure to get positive reviews on either Facebook, Google or TripAdvisor,” she says.

“The manager has actually told us to ask customers to do the review in front of us after their meals which I find hilarious.

“Anyway, I feel like it gets the managers off my back about it if I write a few for myself here and there. I do get a few genuine ones but a few more won’t hurt, eh?”

She adds: “I think it does make me look like a better employee, obviously.”

The murky world of fake online reviews hit headlines again on Tuesday, after consumer group Which? claimed that Amazon’s website is flooded with fake five-star reviews for products from unfamiliar brands.

Amazon said it was using automated technology to weed out false reviews and that it had invested “significant resources” to protect its review system “because we know customers value the insights and experiences shared by fellow shoppers”.

“Even one inauthentic review is one too many,” it added.

Online reviews are valuable to businesses. The government’s Competition and Markets Authority has estimated that such reviews potentially influence a mammoth £23bn of UK customer spending every year.

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‘You can’t win’

One company, in Bingley, West Yorkshire, has decided not to use review websites because of the risk of competing with fake reviews.
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