All you have to do is catch them lying … about anything.
For the past year or more, I’ve been outing web scammers based on my ten-point Scam-O-Meter scoring system. If ten points sounds too complicated, here’s a tip; all you have to do is catch them lying. Catch them lying about anything. Once you do, that’s all you need to know, unless you’re happy with forking over your credit card data to a liar.
A very easy lie to check is any portrait that you see on a web page. I prefer to use portraits of people giving rave testimonials, if the web page has them. Portraits of satisfied customers, doctors and other experts, or the supposed founder or owner of the business give good results too. I’ve even found a scammer who posted an image of his supposed building that really belonged to a different business.
While it’s not true that “A picture never lies,” it is true that this kind of lie is ridiculously easy to spot. Here’s how to do it:
- Store a copy of the photo on your device
- Run a Google Image Search on the photo
- The search results reveal the lie
1: Store a copy of the photo on your device
Our example is this ad for ClearSight night-vision glasses I noticed on Facebook. Normally, you can alt-click on a photo on a web page and capture it. Here I am doing it on a different web page in MacOS on the Sierra browser. Other OSs and browsers have basically the same feature. When I alt-click the image, a floating menu pops up. I select “Save image as …” and go thru the usual dialog to pick a folder in which to save it.
Some web pages are designed such that you can’t grab the individual image so easily. (And that evasiveness should already be ringing an alarm bell if you were thinking about buying something from them.). For example, ClearSight Glasses won’t let me grab a portrait next to a testimonial. “Save image as …” doesn’t come up on the menu.
This isn’t really an obstacle. On a Mac it’s easy to capture all or part of a screen image; and other OSs have a similar feature. There’s no way a scammer can keep me from recording the pixels on my own computer’s display, and a screen-cap is all I need. For me, it’s [Apple] [shift] ; my mouse pointer turns into crosshairs. I draw a box around the part of the screen I want, and whatever is inside (like Andy Barns) gets stored on my computer. Got him!
2: Run a Google Image Search on the photo
Go to Google Images. Click on the camera.
Two tabs appear. Click Upload an image. Then click Choose file.
Navigate to the image or screen cap you saved on your device and run the search.
3: The search results reveal the lie
We’re looking for any of these results:
- The picture is from a stock photo service.
- The picture obviously belongs to someone else. Stolen, probably.
- The picture appears in lots of ads, with a different name in every ad.
If none of these is true, the web page passes the lie detector test … that test, anyway.
Here’s what the top of an image search result looks like. Scrolling further down, you’ll find links to any web pages that contain the same picture. I’ve found that some of the pages don’t have the picture I was looking for. Maybe they were changed after Google indexed them. Or maybe the picture was part of an ad that didn’t appear in the page on this round.
You’ve been very patient to read this far! So now let’s enjoy some of the results of my search on the portrait from the ClearSight testimonial.
It turns out that Andy Barns has really gotten around. Here he is pitching a shoe-polishing gadget for Equerry, only he’s Steven Graham:
This versatile man is also a massage specialist (no name?) for LotusInParis:
And now as Bruce The Builder pitching Cheddar, a loan company. Notice he’s moved from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Pennsylvania. Must have; it’d be a hell of a commute:
There’s way, way more to Andy Barns’ online career. Let’s look at just one more item; here’s a knockoff of The Onion having some fun with Robert Alexander, played by our friend Andy.
If I’d been considering buying a pair of ClearSight night vision glasses, I’d have given up the idea by now.
I didn’t find a stock photo service selling Andy Barn’s picture. So I’m guessing it was originally stolen from somebody’s online post, simply by copying it to a file as I explained earlier. I’m a lot more cautious now about posting pictures of myself and anybody I know!