People often ask me for tips on how to spot fake news, especially since there has been a lot of talk about it in the news recently. It is evident that fake news isn’t just a way for advertisers to increase clicks, but is now a form of propaganda meant to influence. But there is an even more insidious side of fake news and that’s fraud meant to facilitate identity theft.
Not all fake-news starters are thieves. Some just want you to visit their website so you can be lured into clicking an ad – you might not get a virus but the website owner will get money off your ad click. Some fake news is non-sensational and realistic and that’s why they get traction.
But other fake-news developers want you to visit their site – luring you in with the fake news link – because the visit will download a virus to your computer. The crook can then gain access to your sensitive personal information, raid your bank account, open credit cards in your name, and more.
Here’s How To Spot Fake News
- Use common sense. If a story seems overly sensationalized, be extra critical of it.
- The way a story is written, like a parody for instance, can often give away its falsehood.
- Check the URL. If the URL looks funny, the story may be fake.
- Often, the accompanying photo will give you a clue. If the photo looks fake, the corresponding story may very well be fake as well.
How to Test the Legitimacy of a Photo
- Screenshot the photo, cropping tightly to exclude irrelevant graphics.
- Go to Google’s Image Search.
- Drag the screenshot into the “Drop image here” field.
- There will then be information after “Best guess for this image.” Does that information correlate to the story? If not, the story that you were reading may be fake.
In fact, do this with any image that pertains to a potential business transaction. If the “best guess” contradicts the information in the ad, consider it a scam. Identity thieves and other crooks frequently steal images and call them their own.
Whenever in doubt do a search on the story item to see who is also reporting on it. If the only place publishing the story is some sleazy website, be suspicious. In other words, if the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times make no mention of it, then you may want to think twice before trusting the story.