Fraud Alert: Watch Out for Fake (Paid) Reviews on E-commerce; Gift Messages on WhatsApp
Given that e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience, without an opportunity to physically view or examine the product, consumers heavily rely on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to see the opinion and experiences of users who have already purchased the goods or service. 
 
Unfortunately, we often discover low-quality products with five-star ratings and positive reviews. Most often, these are fake. Although fake reviews are not a new phenomenon, a disturbing new trend is of sellers offering payment to customers in exchange for writing positive reviews or giving five-star ratings.  
 
Fake reviews violate a consumer’s right to get a genuine and honest opinion from other buyers. We will look at how the fake (paid) review system works and how you can detect it. 
 
We will look at how the names of prominent people, including a judge from the Allahabad high court, are being used by fraudsters to dupe people. 
 
Fake (Paid) Reviews & Five-Star Ratings
 
The simplest way to get high ratings is to co-opt customers by luring them with discounts. So, companies send out cards or pamphlets along with the product purchased online and offer Rs25 to Rs100 cashback if you share a positive product review with the seller.  
 
Here is one such message: "If you like our product, rate this product as well as the seller five stars and WhatsApp the screenshot on +91xxxxxxxxxx & we will send your Paytm cash."
 
       
Another seller says, "Go to my orders, write a product review and give 5 star rating. Take a screenshot of 5-star rating page and send it on WhatsApp xxxxxxxxxx you will get cashback in 48 hours."
 
Another dubious aspect of the fake rating racket is to disallow negative reviews. I have experienced this several times. A typical response on posting a negative review is this: "After carefully reviewing your submission, your review could not be posted to the website."  
 
Earlier this week, the department of consumer affairs constituted a committee to develop a framework for checking fake and deceptive reviews in e-commerce. Earlier, the consumer affairs ministry and other stakeholders, including the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), met with stakeholders, including e-commerce entities, to discuss how paid, unverifiable reviews make it challenging for consumers to recognise genuine reviews.
 
Last year, UK-based consumer group Which? reported how several websites are selling fake reviews for goods sold on Amazon Marketplace. As per the research by Which?, sellers can buy these fake review packages for 15 pounds individually, while the price of bulk packages starts at 620 pounds for 50 reviews which may go up to 8,000 pound for 1,000 reviews. (Read: Several websites found selling fake Amazon reviews)
 
How To Spot a Fake Review
 
* Check the rating. If there are few people, who all have given highest rating, then the rating and review are probably paid ones (read cashback from seller)
 
* Check the timeline of the review. If multiple reviews are posted in a short period, using similar language, they are most certainly fake reviews
 
* Do check reviews by certified buyers. 
 
HC Chief Justice's Photo Used for WhatsApp Fraud
 
A conman who introduces himself as 'Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court Justice Rajesh Bindal' has been sending fraudulent WhatsApp messages to lawyers for the last one month, asking them to purchase Amazon gift cards through a link forwarded on their numbers.
 
According to a report from IANS, since most of the lawyers do not have the personal number of the chief justice saved in the contact list, they were initially caught unawares when the fraudster forwarded messages on WhatsApp.
 
After receiving one such message, senior counsel Bulbul Godiyal, also a former additional advocate general of Uttar Pradesh, filed a first information report (FIR) with the Vibhuti Khand police station. 
 
Triveni Singh, superintendent of police, cybercrime at Lucknow, told the newswire, "After the initial investigation, the cell number from which WhatsApp messages were being sent has been located in Rajasthan."
 
Mr Singh's team discovered that such frauds are being operated from Jamtara in Jharkhand and Mewat area in Mathura, Rajasthan and Haryana's triangular border.
 
Almost all messages received on WhatsApp that offer a free gift, subsidy or anniversary giveback are fake and aimed at duping people. These links induce you to part with personal information used for targeted selling and, in some cases, may be totally fraudulent. 
 
So, next time you receive any such message on WhatsApp, simply delete it. If the sender is a known person, then tell her/ him about the fraudulent nature of these messages. And, if the sender is unknown, simply block and report the number to WhatsApp.
 
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