How to spot fake social proof signals (comments, reviews, testimonials, sales notifications)?

Comments, reviews, testimonials, and sales notifications are wildly used as social proof on websites.

They can easily influence the visitors’ decision to consume content, buy products and services, share their personal information, or take whatever action is required from them.

Some sellers will do whatever it takes to push you to buy their offering. And that includes crafting fake social proof signals.

We are in the AI age. So, creating content is way much easier than it used to be.

Learning to spot forged social proof when dealing with products/services is crucial for your safety.

Here are a couple of hints:


Human interaction on websites will very likely not follow any pattern.

Consequently, whenever you spot a pattern, like repetition, in materials meant to be shared by customers, activate your red flag status.

Don’t trust the likes of:

  • Repetitive words and synonyms.
  • Extensive use of positive words (great, awesome, cool, must-have, life saver).
  • Repetitive use of specific sentence structures.
  • Repetitive use of punctuation (exclamation points more particularly).

Trust the likes of:

  • Different writing styles, tones, and voices.
  • When you see typos and grammar errors.

Nonverifiable names, companies, and email addresses

Social proof aims to “prove” that someone in the real world bought, used, or vouched for a specific offering.

Removing any way to verify the authenticity of whoever added the input should negate its effect.

Don’t trust the likes of:

  • Using the first name only and an initial of the last name.
  • Using nontraceable nicknames.
  • Company names with no presence on the Internet, no website, and no record on public registries.
  • When the authors use a public/free email service with a nonpersonal name.

Trust the likes of:

  • Full name, company, and position with a link.

Stock photos or using the same picture under multiple websites

When the picture is part of the review or testimonial avatar, it should be easily verifiable that it belongs to the same name where it was used.

A simple way to verify that is to run a reverse search for the picture using the following:

Here is how to do it using Bing Images:

How to do a reverse image search on Bing browser (using their Bing Image search)

If the result returns a lot of different websites using the same image, you have your answer.

AI-generated profile photos

It’s a game changer when it comes to forging profile photos.

The reason is that AI-generated profile photos are not returning any results when using reverse image search.

Here is an example:

AI-generated profile photos are not showing on reverse images search

The only clue that might pop up is that they will all have the overall layout.

They will generally come with a blurry or flat background and have the same straight look.

Some examples:

AI-generated profile images


Social proof’s main goal is to relay the pros, values, and convey the usefulness of the business, product, or service.

But no product is perfect. And in real-world conditions, there must be neutral views and a bunch of opposing ones.

Don’t trust the likes of:

  • When every single review or testimonial praises the business, product, or service.

When authoritative names are mentioned

You can see it on visible sections of homepages, landing pages, or sell pages as:

  • As seen at.
  • Featured in.
  • Published by.
  • Used by.

I will look like this:

Example of “as seen in” on landing pages

When authoritative businesses or public figures are mentioned as part of the social proof efforts, things change a bit.

For visitors, it’s more of an endorsement than just a review or testimonial.

This is not the kind of thing that can be easily granted. Any respectable authority in their field has Public Relations processes. If they like or endorse anything, they publicly state it and support it. And therefore, the seller, or page author, needs tangible proof that it’s legit. Otherwise, it will be just a “claim.”

Don’t trust the likes of:

  • Broken links when they are meant to lead to the proof of the endorsement.
  • When researching the authoritative source, you can’t find any mention of any type, form, or proof of the “claim.”

Go the extra mile by verifying things on the authoritative source’s end directly:

  • Emailing them and asking questions.
  • Reaching out through social media and asking for clarifications about the “claim.”


One thing to look for is what kind of commenting system is used.

Native and social media commenting systems are easy to control and fake.

Don’t trust the likes of:

  • Native WordPress comments and variants (CommentLuv, Decomments, wpDiscuz).
  • Facebook commenting widget.

3rd party commenting systems based on accounts/reputation are harder to fake.

Trust the likes of:

  • Commento.
  • Disqus.

Social signals

Social signals are tricky. They are meant to share with the visitors what actions were performed by other users.

For that part, we are looking at how these actions are recorded and if there is any way to fake them.

Just like comments, self-hosted social-proof plugins are easy to control.

Don’t trust the likes of:

  • LetConvert.
  • NotificationX.
  • Provely.
  • WP Real-Time Social-Proof.
  • WooCommerce Notifications.

3rd party social proof with tight authenticity social proof systems can still be faked but will require a lot of skills and advanced use of their API, and of course, paying for a specific monthly views cap to use the tool itself.

They can be considered overall authentic.

Trust the likes of:

  • Proof (
  • ProveSource.
  • Fomo (
  • TrustPulse.

Reviews and Testimonials

The only way to make reviews and testimonials valuable is by using verifiable people. Otherwise, chances are very slim for them to be genuine.

Social Media

By far the most biased source of information when you need more information or make a buying decision.

Social media have three main things to watch out for:

  • Fake likes and shares.
  • “Ambassadors.”
  • Affiliates.

Ambassadors and affiliates are the worst things that happened to social media… Both are die-hard partisans, whatever the opposition says. You will find them either praising and shilling the business, product, or service or defending it when needed.

At some point, you can’t distinguish between genuine comments and shilled ones until it’s too late.

Something is unclear? Or need further explanation? Hit the chat icon on the right bottom side of the page, and let’s see how I can unriddle this specific matter ;)