How to use reverse image search to check photo authenticity : Internet Scambusters #956
Fake photos are often the gateway to a costly scam -- but perhaps not, if you use a reverse image search.
This is a method of uploading a photo to the Internet and having a search engine check it against every other picture online.
In this week's issue, we'll explain how to do a reverse image check. The good news: It's easy!
Let's get started…
Is It Genuine? Check That Photo with Reverse Image Search
Are you looking online for romance, a new home, a pet, or maybe a collectible item? Or perhaps you're seeking any one of hundreds of other items that call for a photo to convince you to commit.
But chances are you've already heard about how fake photos are being used by scammers to trick victims into parting with their money.
It happens on classified ad services like Craigslist, on auction sites and, of course, on dating sites.
Crooks steal photos, profiles, and other details they find on social media sites, meaning you often have no idea if what you're seeing is genuine or not.
One red flag shows when an item is offered at a crazily low price. Or, in the case of dating sites, good looking dreamboats who also seem to be perfect in every other way.
Another way to check is to search on the name of the item or the seller to see if they pop up elsewhere.
But that same search technique can be used in exactly the same way to check the validity of a photo. It's an easy way to discover whether those photos are real or not, known as a reverse search, or a reverse image search.
It's not as tough as it sounds because you can do it on Google and one or two other sites with just a couple of clicks. You upload the photo at Google Images and the web giant will look virtually everywhere to see if it can find a match.
If it does, the source or the circumstances in which is is found, especially if there are multiple copies of the same image, might suggest a scam.
It's not infallible. And if Google doesn't find a match, that doesn't necessarily mean the photo you're checking is legit. But the service has undoubtedly helped thousands, perhaps millions, of potential victims identify a fake photo, to save them money and, possibly, heartbreak.
How to Do a Reverse Image Search
On the Google Image page, you'll find a box similar to one on a regular search page. If you key in a keyword, Google will simply look for photos that match the words.
But if you drag a photo you want to check into this box, Google will find any other versions of the photo and identify the source.
Another way is to right click a website image to bring up a menu of options and select either "copy image address," which you can insert into the search box, or select "search Google for image."
(Note the actual wording of these options may depend on which browser you're using.)
More Reverse Image Search Options
There are several other online services that enable you to run a reverse image check.
For example, TinEye, a commercial operation, offers a similar search to Google, plus a simple "upload" button and a copy-and-paste function linked to your computer's clipboard.
It's available as an extension to some browsers, including Google's own Chrome, showing up as a "search image on TinEye" option when you right click a picture.
The firm claims to have indexed more than 46 billion images, which it can search in a matter of seconds. It adds millions more images every day.
There's an important difference between what Google and TinEye subsequently do with the images you upload.
On the other hand, TinEye claims it never saves or indexes uploaded pictures.
Other reverse image software includes Reversee, Veracity, and Photo Sherlock. We don't make recommendations on any particular one or their effectiveness, but here is a list of some of the most popular apps.
Reverse Image Search on Mobiles
The techniques we've outlined above are mainly focused on desktop reverse image searches.
It can be a little tougher with cell phones and other mobile devices. You may find you have to copy an image from your phone and transfer it across to your desktop to use one of the above methods.
But some of the desktop apps, such as TinEye, also have mobile alternatives. Here's a list of some of the best ones for iOS and Android.
As we said, reverse image searching is not guaranteed to identify fake photo scams. But it's an important weapon in the never-ending fight against these fraudsters.
Alert of the Week
The past few weeks have seen a huge surge in spam emails emanating from a comcast.net address.
Comcast is one of the nation's biggest Internet service providers (ISPs) and spammers appear to be creating hundreds of email accounts using them. The first part of the address is usually just a jumble of letters like 'firstname.lastname@example.org'.
In just 24 hours, more than 40 of these turned up in one of the Scambusters team's inbox, avoiding some anti-spam filters.
The sheer volume of the messages and the fact that most of them are duplicates and poorly worded gives enough of a clue to their "spaminess."
It seems likely that the spammers have recently acquired a set of stolen email addresses and are just bombarding victims. In the case of our researcher, the address was a "throwaway" that he uses precisely to avoid spam on his main address.
Be on the alert for a similar invasion of your inbox!
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.