HOUSTON -

The Internet has allowed everyone's inner critic to not only come out, but to come out swinging. Every product website has a section for consumers to voice their opinions and it appears more shoppers are reading them when making a purchase.

"I tend to read the reviews more and more and they're starting to really influence me," said Alison Stevens.

QUIZ: Are these reviews fake?

Stevens said she has used the reviews to find service people for home repairs and while searching for recommendations for hair and nail salons.

The reviews are there for everyone to read, including the good, the bad, and especially the ugly.

"It's like they say, you tell one person. If it's a good experience, you tell 10. If it's worse, you'll tell 100," said Jeff Pate.

Ed Magedson, the creator of the consumer complaint website Rip-Off Report, said this new wave in griping is turning the tables on sellers.

"Back in the 20th century, it used to be buyer beware. Today, more so, it's seller beware. The consumer now has a real voice," said Magedson.

Being able to tell the difference between real reviews and fake ones is not easy. Just ask researchers at Cornell University.

They hired freelance writers to fabricate 400 reviews and mixed those with 400 real reviews taken from online.

Lead researcher Myle Ott found people could not tell the difference with any consistency.

"There's lots of fake reviews out there. You know competitors trying to be malicious to their competition, so it's tough to know what's a real review and what's not," said Roger Janik.

Complicating the issue is a rising number of web services offering money for reviews.Reviewstream.com, Shvoong.com, and Ciao.com all offer pay for reviews and they pay even more if people find the reviews helpful.

On the website Fiverr.com, users are selling product reviews for $5.

This comment found under one writer's own reviews highlights the issue with hiring people to craft these reviews.

A buyer known as "Roc" posted, "Can you do more under a different account and name? I have some competitors posting negative reviews and I want to bury them. Letme know your thoughts... Roc."

So how do you review the reviewer? The Cornell researchers designed an algorithm using linguistics and other variables to do what humans could not. Their computer program sniffed out the fake reviews 90 percent of the time.

"If it's one or two people I won't usually take it to heart too much, but if there's a lot of people saying the same thing, it makes a lot of sense to follow it," said Galye Abrahams.

Abrahams has the right idea. Checking multiple reviews is a good start.

Signs an online review is fake:

  • Start with the name: There should be one. Anonymous posts should not carry the same weight as those with an identity.
  • Check the identity: See what other items they have reviewed and how those were written. If you see they have reviewed the same type of product multiple times, like 10 comments on 10 different vacuum cleaners, it could be a red flag they are a professional poster.
  • Check the dates of all the reviews: If several are within days of each other, it could signal the seller is trying to skew his own ratings by fishing for comments from friends or hiring people to flood the website with positive reviews.
  • Look at the word choice: Few real reviewers will use the official name of the product or the full catalog description of the item.
  • Too much emotion: Using too many exclamation points, Using the word "love" excessively and writing about over-the-top adoration for something like dinnerware should be another sign.
  • Too many "I" statements: While researchers say past studies have shown people who tell lies use the word "I" less as a way to distance themselves from the fabrication. Online, the opposite seemed to be true. When writing reviews, the fibber used "I" statements more often, the researchers believed as a way to increase their credibility.

Reviews: real or fake?

Reviews: real or fake?

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Crossover Strap Means Safety! "I purchased the eBags Piazza Day Bag for several reasons, the main one being safety on the mean streets of Houston. The daily news is riddled with stories of women portrayed as victims of purse theft in parking lots, malls, and grocery stores. I decided that I need a purse that I can carry hands-free and safely, and this bag because of the adjustable strap fills the bill. The purse has all sorts of compartments and zippered slots. One nice feature is the felt, divided pocket for sunglasses and cell phone. There is a side pocket for water bottle or umbrella. There is a hidden flap for passport, airline ticket, or other essential ID. This bag comes in many colors as well. Because it is lightweight, I have no trouble stuffing it and carrying it!" *This question is required.
A view to die for!

"I could not believe how beautiful this whole place was. It is located in the heart of Brooklyn next to the trend setting Park Slope area. The rooms looked just like they did on the website. The room was fresh smelling with crisp clean linens. There was private parking, a major plus in this part of the city. The front desk personel were friendly and helpful. The service felt very personal. They leave breakfast at the door which was only a bagel and cheese but it let us have breakfast in bed which was a nice touch.The small hotel is exactly what they mena when they say boutique. The beds were soft and comfortable, haven't slept that good in a long time. Even with the floor to ceiling windows, the traffic noise was minimal. The hot water was hot and the shower was relaxing. It is a short walk to many restaurants in the area and easy to find. The price was great too - for a hotel in this area you couldn't beat it. Next time I am in town I will stay here." *This question is required.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT! -

I have been using Feria #74 for more than 10 years. That right there should tell you I LOVE it!

Feria #74 is not for someone who does not want to be noticed. It is quite bright immediately after dying it, and it stays that way for several days. I find it tends to "bleed" on a towel for a few days, too (I've invested in some dark colored ones just for these days.) The color will fade into a more natural shade within a few days. But there's no reason you can't go out right after dying your hair ... although I would recommend wearing a light brown or bright red shirt (those two are the best I've found to tone it down.) I get tons and tons and tons of compliments on this color. Most people don't even realize it's not natural, and when I tell them that it's a home color, they're always stunned. If you want a just a touch of red or to be strawberry blonde, this color is NOT for you. This color is to be red, red, red! Some celebrities with roughly this shade ... Debra Messing, Marcia Cross, Lindsay Lohan (in her younger days) and Christina Hendricks. I have extremely pale skin and the red really pops!
It's easy to apply, but the conditioner it comes with is complete junk. I toss it in the trash and have a 6-ounce bottle of the OLD Feria conditioner. That can be purchased at Sally Beauty Supply.

I completely recommend this product ... just be ready to be noticed and stopped wherever you go! *This question is required.
GREAT FOOD - EVEN MORE FUN!

I could not get over how amazing the drinks were from the bar. A group of friends met there to celebrate a birthday and everyone loved it - which is not easy to find a place we all like. It is superbly decorated - the room had a nice feel, expensive but comfortable. We all shared appetizers that were great. and mouthwatering with the fish special of the night spotlighting the fantastic skills of chef Roban. Our waiter was amazing and the food arrived in no time with no problems. Every bite was perfect and every plate that arrived looked amazing. The desserts were just the right touch to end the night on a great note. We all said we would definitely be back. *This question is required.
The BEST BAG EVER!

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with this bag. The eBag Pizzaza Day Bag is the perfect size, lightweight, versatile and stylish. A zippered opening on the main compartment allows for easy access into the main compartment. Inside two pockets with elastic tops are perfect for holding camera, glasses or other bulky items. A zippered wall pocket adds organization and security. It is the LIGHTEST! EASIEST! Most COMFROTABLE bag!!!" *This question is required.
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