While reviewing a client site, I recently noticed a small number of accounts had registered with spurious firstName and lastName values such as:

After some digging, it appeared these customers had legitimate email addresses, however had placed no orders, nor had they interacted with our site.
Looking at the logs, these emails had received ‘welcome’ emails – which looked a bit like:

Which reveals the scam.
A bad actor had obtained a list of legitimate email addresses, and they were using the site to send spam, by signing up accounts using a bot.
The accounts then receive a ‘welcome email’ containing the spam links.
We quickly implemented invisible recaptcha on our signup form, and the problem disappeared.
Affected accounts were archived.

I buy a lot on Amazon. Probably too much.
I enjoy the convenience, pricing (mostly) and reviews.
Reviews, however, have to be looked at carefully. Some sellers, particularly new sellers (or selling new products) offer incentives for 5* reviews.
I knew this practice happened, but I’d never experienced it first hand.

I recently bought a product on Amazon, with a smattering of 5* reviews. I ignored my own advice about looking out for only 5* reviews, and bought it.
It was delivered via Amazon Prime the next day.
The product itself was ok. Definitely not 5* in my opinion, so I boxed it back up, and intended to initiate the return that weekend.

Saturday morning, however, I received the following email from the seller, direct to my email address:

An offer for 10% refund (or a free gift) if I leave a 5* review, and share the proof with them.

It was now apparent that the other 5* reviews on there were also incentivised.

I reported this to Amazon, who confirmed this practice was against their T&C, and will investigate.

Tips

  • If a product has only a few reviews, and all are 5*, beware.
  • Look at the reviewers previous review count / helpful votes (in their profile)
  • Prefer photo reviews – the reviewer has taken the time to share photos of the product, it’s likely to be a lot more trustworthy (both positive / negative reviews)