HENRIETTA, N.Y. (WROC) — Coming off of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, researchers at RIT have spent the better part of this year targeting reviews on Amazon. Are they legitimate or not?

Amazon shoppers tend to rely solely on reviews for feedback based on what they’re interested in buying.

Faculty at RIT’s college of business started looking into this when one professor purchased a product based on five-star reviews, and it turned out to be a sham.

As a result, they found this can be all too common.

With an uptick in online sales brought on by the pandemic, researchers at Saunders College of Business at RIT decided to review: Amazon reviews.

Specifically, when products tend to garner only positive remarks with little commentary saying otherwise. 

“I knew of a paper that had studied the market for fake reviews, so they had found specific Facebook groups in which Amazon products are advertising their products, and actively asking for them to buy the product. Then, they ask them to send a receipt plus a review they’re willing to write with five stars, and then they will get reimbursed for that product,” said Gijs Overgoor, assistant professor of marketing at RIT.

In a collaboration with UCLA researchers, Overgoor said data was collected over nine months and in the last year, they’ve looked into ways online shoppers can be misled.

“What we saw in terms of academic literature is that people have tried to tackle this problem before, but they lacked the data needed to study it and the methods needed to detect these fraudulent products. That was a clear incentive for us to take a look at this study,” said Overgoor.

Within their findings, Overgoor and others discovered what’s called a ‘fake review marketplace,’ where some are essentially hired to write positive feedback for a given product.

“We trust the reviews of customers that have bought the product that have tried it. It’s very valuable information for us because otherwise, all we have to rely on is what was provided by the companies. They have a different incentive than customers,” said Overgoor.

RIT plans to continue its studies, as Amazon has not yet rectified how to counteract fraudulent reviews entirely from its site.

Meanwhile, Adobe Analytics also found a new record this year in online Cyber Monday sales, hitting 11 billion nationwide.