Top 5 Ways to Spot Fake Advisor Reviews

Finally, consumers are able to access financial advisor reviews, but discerning between fake and true reviews will still be a challenge.

Published March 12th, 2021

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Over the past decade, online customer reviews have transformed the way customers research products and services. Websites like Amazon, Yelp, and Trip Advisor have created platforms where customers can find thousands of reviews and testimonials that will help them navigate their choices better than any product description ever could. Businesses have taken advantage of this shift as well by including reviews and testimonials in their advertising. Most businesses today even have client reviews on the front page of their website, offering potential customers an honest perspective on their service. 

How To: Spot Fake Financial Advisor Reviews

Unfortunately, financial advisors have not been able to capitalize on the use of reviews and testimonials. Prior to December 2020, financial advisors were prohibited from using client reviews and testimonials in their marketing materials. However, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted to change this rule, finally allowing financial advisors to modernize their marketing efforts with the help of client reviews. This change is great news for potential clients as well. Anyone searching for a financial advisor will finally have a way to see honest, transparent testimonials about the experience of working with a specific advisor. 

Customers must be cautious though, because this rule does allow the possibility of fake, dishonest reviews. With customer reviews becoming more important than ever, many businesses have started campaigning for fake reviews to boost their credibility or the credibility of their product. In fact, many individuals on websites like Fiver will provide fake testimonials to businesses for compensation. With so many sites being plagued with fake reviews, it is crucial for customers to be able to spot a fake review or testimonial, especially when searching for a financial advisor. So, here are five ways to spot fake financial advisor reviews. 

1. Analyze the Language 

When trying to spot fake reviews, analyzing the type of language to look out for can be extremely helpful. A study conducted by researchers at Cornell University found that the heavy use of “I” or “we” tends to be a giveaway for fake reviews, as does the overuse of adverbs like “really” and “very.” Additionally, a review packed with superlatives like “life-changing,” “best,” or “amazing” followed by many exclamation marks should be seen as suspect because of the exaggerated enthusiasm. 

When examining product reviews, some researchers have found that fake reviews will excessively mention the name of the product to boost search engine rankings. Be sure to take this into account when searching for financial advisors. If a review repeatedly mentions the advisor’s name, it could be a sign that the reviews were crafted to boost the advisor’s search engine performance. In the same way, if you see specific phrases repeated throughout multiple different reviews, it could be a sign that the reviewers were instructed to use that specific phrase. 

2. Examine the Reviewer 

Some individuals are paid to leave positive Google reviews for businesses and products. When this is the case, the profile of the reviewer can often be a dead giveaway. For example, if their profile shows that they have left several reviews in a short amount of time, it is likely that they are being paid to do so. It can also be helpful to inspect which products and businesses they have been reviewing. If the reviewer has reviewed several businesses that are located in different states and cities, it’s likely that the reviewer is being compensated to do so. 

Oftentimes, profiles that are used to leave fake reviews will be impersonal. The profiles are less likely to have a photo and will often use generic names. If a profile has a generic avatar and lacks any personal information, it could be a sign that the profile does not belong to a real person. 

3. Consider the Dates of Reviews 

The dates of reviews can also be an indicator of how trustworthy they are. If a business or product has several positive reviews that were all left in a short period of time, it could indicate that the company paid for fake reviews. For example, if a company has been providing a service for several years, it is unlikely that they will receive 50 positive reviews in a one-week period. 

However, while this is a good indicator, it is not a guarantee that the reviews are artificial. In the case of financial advisors specifically, they have just recently been allowed to use customer reviews, so this could result in a large batch of reviews posted in the last few months.  

4. Are the Reviews Following the SEC Rules and Regulations?

Although financial advisors are allowed to use customer reviews and testimonials in their advertising, they still have to follow strict rules and regulations. For example, the reviews cannot include any statements that the advisor cannot substantiate. Therefore, if the financial advisor includes a review in their marketing materials that states that the advisor is an “expert” in retirement planning, the advisor must be able to provide certifications that prove their expertise in the field. 

There are several more rules that the SEC has put in place regarding how financial advisors can use customer reviews. When examining the reviews that an advisor uses in their advertising, make sure that they are including the required disclosures and following the SEC’s rules. Advisor reviews that are not being used in accordance with the SEC’s rules could be a sign of a dishonest advisor and dishonest reviews. 

5. Consider the Website

It’s also important to consider the website that the reviews are on, and if the website has a stake in the advisor’s performance. For example, the firm that employs an advisor might have the incentive to feature the positive reviews of an advisor instead of a more accurate portrayal of the advisor’s overall performance. 

Using Zoe Financial’s network of advisors is a great way to avoid sites that may have a conflict of interests. Zoe is perfectly positioned to provide clients with unbiased, honest reviews of financial advisors in Zoe’s network. 

Zoe Financial’s Unique Position for Advisor Reviews

By simply answering a few questions, Zoe can begin connecting you with a trusted financial advisor that meets your specific needs. Zoe’s network consists of the top 5% of independent, fiduciary financial advisors in the country, weeding out any commission-based advisors or financial salesmen.

Zoe connects clients with advisors from all over the country and allows those clients to provide feedback on their experiences. This model allows Zoe to offer honest, unbiased client reviews. The advisors in Zoe’s network are not employed by Zoe, and because Zoe is extremely selective, they have no incentive to hide any negative reviews. 

Disclosure: This blog is not investment advice and should not be relied on for such advice or as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting, tax, legal or financial advisors. The observations of industry trends should not be read as recommendations for stocks or sectors.

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