The best way for a company to make money on Amazon is by getting five-star reviews. Some companies will do anything to get them, even lie.
But, if you're buying products based on their online reviews and that review isn't genuine, you could receive a faulty product.
One expert said despite Amazon's best efforts to combat the problem, the number of fake online reviews is growing.
NBC 7 Investigates spoke with two former employees of a San Diego marketing firm who said they were asked to write fake reviews for client products.
Chula Vista resident Dianelle Bresler said she was asked to post a glowing review on Amazon for a baby bottle. But, Bresler doesn’t have a baby.
At the time, Bresler said she worked in Rancho Bernardo for Ameba Marketing. She said her supervisor told her to buy the baby bottle from Amazon.
“She told me to use my personal Amazon account, leave a five-star review,” Bresler said. “You know to say this is great. This works.”
Bresler said the seller of the baby bottle was one of Ameba Marketing's clients.
“I just don't feel comfortable with that because I'm not going to use the product and I don't want to leave a fake review,” Bresler told NBC 7 Investigates.
Bresler refused to write the review and two days later, she was fired.
“I feel like since I didn't do what they wanted me to do they just decided to get rid of me,” she said.
Another former Ameba employee told NBC 7 Investigates she wrote several fake testimonials for Ameba's clients after working for the firm for nearly a year.
She too was fired. Both employees said they were not given a specific reason for being let go.
Over the phone, Doron Malka, the President of Ameba Marketing, told NBC7 Investigates his company has never asked its employees to post fake reviews for clients.
He added by email that it's "not an acceptable practice or an endorsed strategy."
In an email, he told NBC 7 Investigates, “I can’t spend more time on this ‘story.’ Again, as far as it pertains to Ameba, it is a bogus story driven by vindictive motives of a former employee, and I’m utterly surprised you don’t see that.”
Ameba isn't the only one accused of posting fake reviews.
Closed Facebook groups offer free products in return for positive Amazon reviews. A woman who is a member of one of these groups told NBC 7 Investigates in just one week she received about "$287 in free products."
At just over $760 billion, Amazon is the world's second most valuable company after Apple.
A spokesperson from Amazon told NBC 7 Investigates, “Inauthentic reviews made up less than 1% of all reviews on Amazon last month but even one is unacceptable. Customers can report suspicious reviews 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and we investigate each claim. We take forceful action against both reviewers and sellers by suppressing reviews that violate our guidelines and suspend, ban or pursue legal action against these bad actors.”
Tommy Noonan, runs ReviewMeta, a site that analyzes Amazon listings and finds what he said are "unnatural reviews".
“It analyzes the reviews then puts them through a series of 15 Tests and it spits out a report,” Noonan said. “My aggregate data shows that the problem got worse sometime around last summer and it hasn't really gotten much better since then.”
Matt Miles is a freelance writer based in the U.K. Miles says he's written up to 75 fake reviews for a variety of products, he never purchased.
His advice? Be skeptical of all online reviews.
“I think knowing stories like this helps you to understand the way the internet works,” Miles said. “If you're watching this interview and you're like yeah, this guy is a jerk, I am I'm sorry I was paid to be a jerk.”
NBC 7 Investigates found when shopping online, you should be skeptical of any online review, even the negative ones.
Another piece of advice is to be wary of positive reviews that are posted within a few days of each other and be cautious of reviews that use the same wording or have similar photos.