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Can you trust online reviews? 3 tips in the wake of Amazon lawsuit

It may not come as a surprise to consumers who regularly read reviews before making purchases, but not every single rave or rant is genuine.

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It's certainly no surprise to Amazon. The online retail giant filed a lawsuit against more than 11,000 "John Does" last Friday because the company believes the fakers are harming their brand by swapping five-star reviews for $5.

"I applaud Amazon for really trying to take a lead role in cracking down on this activity," shopping and consumer expert Lisa Lee Freeman told TODAY. "It hurts the consumer, and its breaking the law."

And it's not a problem limited to any one retailer.

So what's a consumer who's in the market for some reliable information to do?

Here are some tips from Freeman:

  1. Check reviews for the same product on more than one retailer's website and see what evaluators from sites like Consumer Reports and CNET have to say.
  2. Look for patterns — if multiple reviewers are saying the same thing the same way, whether positive or negative, consider it a red flag.
  3. Classic advice might just be the best advice here: If the review sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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