We all know someone who has been the victim of an online scam or two – perhaps they’ve been catfished, had their credit card details stolen, their social media accounts hacked or more. And all of us have received an email from the prince of some distant country who is looking for some lucky person to shift $25,000 to, should they just be willing to provide their banking information.
Spotting online scams has become a new life skill for many of us. But in this age of Photoshop and fake news, one thing still has many of us confused. How do we know that what we are seeing on the Internet, is what we are going to get?
This is especially important when it comes to online shopping. Without seeing or touching the actual product we are looking to buy, it is all the more necessary that we are able to trust that the image we are looking at is truly representative of how it will look like when it’s delivered to our doorstep.
So how can we figure out what’s real and what’s fake? Here’s your cheat sheet below:
Run a reverse image search
Photoshop has provided many artists with the avenues necessary to take a photograph from blah to brilliant. An unfortunate side effect of that is that anyone with a knack for the program and a little spare time can doctor a photo. An easy way to check if a photo is fake is to do what is called a reverse-image search. You enter the image URL into the search bar on a site like TinEye and you can see if the same image has appeared elsewhere on the Internet. Alternatively, you can also use Google.
Use common sense
If your friend is suddenly sharing photos of a girlfriend you’ve never met or a destination you’re certain they didn’t visit, a few tips can help you decide if what you’re looking at is legit. First, look at where the light is coming from on each of the “subjects” in the photo. If it looks like it’s hitting someone or something from a different angle than anyone or anything else, that’s your clue. The sun can’t rise and set in the same photo.
Also, many poorly photoshopped photos will be reduced in quality to detract from the hack job they’ve undergone. However, the photo quality won’t be reduced uniformly with this tactic.
More or less, trust your eyes and your gut. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Run an image search for similar photos
With online profiles, if you’re suspecting that you’re dealing with a fake, the first step is to do a quick image search with some basic and obvious tags to see what comes up. The more specific the details, the more precise your search will be. Include clothing descriptions, hair and eye colour, and approximate age. If the photo you’re looking at shows up, you’re likely looking at a fake.
Another sure-fire red flag is a person who has a high number of friends or fans but little, if any, activity on their page or wall. Real people comment, like, and share!
Watch out for counterfeits
Fake goods might be cheaper but you get what you pay for. If you buy something assuming it’s the real McCoy and it’s not, you could face several problems. Fakes might not last or perform as well as the genuine article, and they won’t be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. They might not meet safety and environmental regulations, and there’s a greater chance they’re manufactured in unsafe and abusive conditions. And, of course, you’ll probably pay way too much.
If you do a little research beforehand, you can avoid throwing money away on fake goods and spare yourself the heartache. Look for security features; many brands have their own. Beware of ultra-low prices and too-good-too-be-true deals.
Most importantly, make it easy on yourself, and simply shop online only at reputable online stores. Look for online shops with a good exchange policy, and that offer a worry-free warranty policy for items that are damaged or missing.