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Tech tips

6 secrets to spot fake news or scams

The internet can be a great way to get things done — especially when you’re stuck dealing with a pandemic. You can use it to shop, work, connect with friends or family or any other task you’d want to conquer. But what the internet gives, it also takes away. Fake information masquerading as facts is rampant on the web, and it’s only becoming more prevalent.

According to a recent poll, over 80% of people asked rated misinformation about the government a major problem. Even more troubling? According to a Pew Research Center survey, roughly 23% of adult social media users in the U.S. say they have changed their views about a political or social issue because of something they saw on social media in the past year.

Fake information that’s posted on social media and news sites can make it difficult to figure out what to believe. Most people can’t spot fake news off-hand, either. Luckily, you can weed out the bad information if you focus on images used with fake news stories. Here’s how.

Using images to get to the truth

If you want to keep from falling for fake news or scams, you can focus on one factor: images. It’s common for scammers to use fake or edited images on posts or fake news stories to make the information look legit. But if you can figure out the fake photos, you can spot fake info. This tactic works for anyone who wants to recognize a scam or misinformation campaign.

To weed out the fake and edited images, you should:

1. Run the shady photo through Google Images

Have you used reverse image search in Google Images? This is an easy way to find out where the photo is being used, what it’s being used for and where it came from.

This tool searches the internet using an image instead of words. When you run a photo through Google Images, it will search and find other images like it so you can determine where it’s from. It will also pull up modified and amended versions. This will help you discern if the information you’re being told is correct or fake.

There are three different ways to run a Google Image search, and the tool works on any browser:

1. You can drag the image to the Google Images search field. 

2. You can copy the image’s URL and paste it into the search engine.

3. You can right-click on any image in Chrome and hit “Search Google for image.” 

To run a reverse image search on your phone:

  1. On your phone or tablet, open the Google or Chrome app.
  2. Go to Google Images.
  3. Search for the image you want to use and tap it.
  4. To search with the image:
    • Touch and hold the image, then tap Search Google for this image.​
    • Or, if you search in English, at the top right, tap Visually search this image. 

2. Go to TinEye.com

TinEye.com is another reverse image search option. It works similarly to Google Images. You can search by image or perform a reverse image search with TinEye. The photo will be checked against the in-house index, which contains over 44.7 billion images.

To use TinEye, you can also drag and drop images and begin your search. You can also copy and paste an image from the clipboard on your device, upload the image or search by the URL, or add it to Chrome.

3. Drop a picture’s URL into ImgOps.com

ImgOps.com is another good option for searching by image. All you have to do is paste an image into the search bar on the site or drag and drop a file onto the page to search for similar images on several different sites. Once the image is uploaded or the link is added, you’ll see a menu on the right side of your screen that you can use to click and search on Google, Bing, TinEye, Reddit etc.

4. Look into the picture’s data with EXIF viewer 

Another way to research images is to use EXIF viewer. This simple tool lets you open a JPG image from your computer or a URL and then view its EXIF data. That’s the information that’s held in image files. It contains data like GPS, which lets you see where it was taken, or even the shutter count from certain cameras.

There are a handful of options you can use for viewing EXIF data. The best way is to add an EXIF viewer extension to your browser like this one for Chrome.

5. Add an extension to your browser

An easy way to spot fake images is to add an extension to your browser that does the work for you. SurfSafe is a great option if you’re using Chrome. The sole purpose of that extension is to help weed out fake news, and that includes fake images, too. Once you’ve added it to your browser, you can just hover over an image and SurfSafe will classify it as safe, warning or unsafe.

The Fake news debunker by InVID & WeVerify is another solid choice. This extension allows you to get contextual info on social media videos quickly, perform reverse image searches and gives you a ton of other tools to identify fake news, too.

6. Report false and misleading posts whenever you see them

If you come across fake images or misleading posts with the tools above, you should report them to the platform they’re being hosted on. Whether that’s Facebook or a reputable news site, take the time to point out that this information is incorrect. That will help keep others from falling for the traps that are being set on the web.

With fake images comes false information, and that can cause serious problems for the general public. It’s important to be able to discern fact from fiction early and often.

Tap or click here for more about the fake news problem on social media.

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