DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – She’s usually getting other people consumer justice, but CBS11’s Cristin Severance recently needed help herself.
It started with an email from Amazon thanking her for writing a review for an item she’d never bought or used. Then came another email and another.
It turns out someone was using Cristin’s name to write five-star reviews for items all over Amazon.
She found reviews using her name for headphones, cell phone screen protectors and phone chargers–all items she’d never purchased.
CBS11’s Consumer Justice team also found dozens of other customers with the same issue on Amazon user forums and Reddit.
Cristin worried if someone was using her account, to write reviews, they could access her payment information.
She immediately checked her order history but there was no suspicious activity. She changed her password and made sure the two-step verification was on and contacted Amazon.
The company did not respond to her request for a comment by her deadline and several additional fake reviews were posted while she waited for an answer.
“They should take it seriously because your account was compromised,” said Jason Brown of Reviewfraud.org, a website dedicated to stopping fake reviews.
Brown says Amazon and other companies could do more to fight the problem. “We know and they know that people are trying to come up with ways to game the system. That’s why they have preferred buyers and of course none of the reviews you had show that you were a preferred purchaser.”
Brown says fake reviews ultimately hurt consumers the most because many purchases are based on how many five-star reviews a product has.
“People are going to go with products that have more reviews than a product that doesn’t. If a product has 140 five-star reviews then they’ll take them over someone that may have 105 reviews with a three or four-star rating,” said Brown.
It’s important to note, Amazon will mark certain reviews as an “Amzon Verified Purchase,” which means the company verified that the person writing the review bought the product through Amazon and didn’t receive the item at a deep discount.
Days after Cristin contacted Amazon, the customer service team sent this message to her personal email address.
We believe that an unauthorized party may have accessed your account. To protect your information, we have:
— Disabled the password to your account.
— Reversed any changes to your account made by this party.
— Canceled any pending orders.
— Removed any Community Content submitted by this party.
A spokesperson also reached out to Cristin with the following statement:
“Amazon Customer Reviews are one of the most valuable tools we offer for making informed purchase decisions and we work hard to make sure they are doing their job. We use a number of mechanisms to prevent and detect inauthentic reviews including collusion detection, machine-learned algorithm that gives more weight to newer, more helpful reviews, apply strict criteria to qualify for the Amazon verified purchase badge and enforce a significant dollar amount requirement to participate.
We also suspend, ban or take legal action against the sellers and manufacturers who create the demand for inauthentic reviews as well as individuals and organizations who supply them. We know that millions of Amazon customers make informed buying decisions everyday using Customer Reviews and we invest heavily to ensure that they are trustworthy.”