Do your research before you commit to that hotel room, writes Megan Singleton.

I was the victim of fake reviews online after naively assuming each satisfied person was telling the truth about the house we booked in New Orleans. I found out the hard way that I should have read between the lines as it was so appalling we escaped and forfeited our first night's deposit. Look for these five giveaways.

1. Superlatives

Fake reviewers tend to overuse superlatives and exaggeration. They use "awesome", "really" and "very" a lot. And watch for exclamation marks!! They'll cover details that your regular guest wouldn't even notice and err on the side of sounding like a gushing brochure.

2. Compare sites


TripAdvisor allows anyone to post a review, whereas Expedia allows only people who have booked through their site to post. It stands to reason that those who have booked and paid will be more reliable. A University of Southern California, Yale and Dartmouth College study found that smaller, independent hotels had more five-star reviews on TripAdvisor than on Expedia.

3. Fewer real impressions

Fake reviewers spend little time writing about their impressions (because they're probably sitting on the other side of the world). A Cornell University study assigned students the task of writing fake reviews for 400 Chicago hotels. Twelve per cent of them spent one minute writing each one. They tend to feature more "I" and "me" to cover their circumstances rather than any specific detail about the hotel.

4. Timing

Some companies hire writers at $10 a pop to write fake reviews. Check the time stamps on when the bulk were posted as many contractors get 48 hours to turn a few hundred around. If you're suspicious, you can also click on the reviewer profile to gauge how honest they seem on a range of other properties.

5. Read them all

The biggest tip is to read through as many reviews as you can for the property you're interested in. Cull the over-enthusiastic ones and the miserable ones, assuming they have been written by the hotel's employees and their po-faced competitors, and what you're left with will likely be the honest average. And if you see this: "TripAdvisor has reasonable cause to believe that either this property or individuals associated with the property may have attempted to manipulate our popularity index by interfering with the unbiased nature of our reviews. Please take this into consideration when researching your travel plans" run a mile.

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