Angie's List: Online reviews

You can find a review for just about anything these days. It's important to do your research before buying a product or service, but how can you tell a real review from a fake one?

The consumer review website Angie's List has some helpful tips to help you sort the fact from fiction when searching online reviews.

"When consumers turn online to get information on services they might want to hire, the first thing they want to do is understand how the site works," says Angie's List creator, Angie Hicks. "How are the reviews compiled? How do companies get listed on the site? These are all important questions for consumers."

Angie's List has some other tips to help you make sure you are getting a real review from a real consumer like yourself.

1. Research the sites to determine how they work.

  • Are the reviews anonymous?
  • Are the reviews edited by the site or allowed to stand as the reviewer wrote them?
  • Does the site have a check and balance system to ensure the reviews are truthful and fair?
  • Can companies respond to the reviews?
  • Are there remedies for consumers who have issues with companies they've reviewed?
  • Can you reach someone at the site if you have questions?

2. Review the reviewers.

  • Look for companies that have multiple reviews so you get a wide opinion base.
  • Do the reports seem really similar? If it's too good to be true, trust your gut.
  • Are all of the reviews overwhelmingly positive?
  • Do the reviews contain details that help convince you they came from real people?
  • Is there information beyond stars, checks or grades so you can learn more?

3. Cast a wide net.

  • Don't rely on just one resource, especially for expensive purchases.
  • Check a variety of online sites and regulatory sites, like your attorney general to get a wide opinion base.
  • Check with friends, family and neighbors.
  • Trust your instincts.