Stolen Images and Videos
One of the most obvious signs of a scam ad or site is the use of stolen material (images or videos).
No serious, trustworthy, business steals material* to use in their store and ads.
The stolen materials often appears in the ads, the comments on the ads, or on the item information page in the store.
But we have also come across stolen images in the About Us section on scam sites, where the images (like staff photos) are tend to be stolen from legitimate businesses (in an attempt to make the scam site look legitimate).
But how do I spot stolen images and videos?
There are several ways to spot stolen images/videos:
- Have you seen the image on other similar sites (or comments)?
Most of the scam sites use the same set of images and videos. A photo (that isn’t a pure product photo [often provided by manufacturers]) that appears on multiple sites or comments is a strong sign that it might be stolen.
You can also try find the photos in our library.
(NB: Product photos on scam sites are still stolen, but product photos alone, usually, are not a good way to tell if a site is using stolen photos)
- Does it seem like it has been cropped (parts of the image/video have been removed)?
This might be hard to spot. Usually it just feels like something is off by how an image/video is framed, like a part of the image is missing. Sometimes it’s more easy to spot, because a part of a persons head (or similar) is cut off.
People who steal images often crop them to cut out any logos etc that might be in a corner of the image, it also makes it a bit harder to search with it to find the original (see below).
- Is the quality bad, or the size reduced?
Both images and videos that gets stolen, to be used for scams, are sometimes downloaded and uploaded multiple times. And sometimes re-edited (especially videos), and then exported with low quality settings (maybe out of lack of knowledge, sloppiness, or maybe on purpose). That can lower the quality (of both the image and sound) quit a lot, and can be very noticeable. Very few, serious, businesses (or ad bureaus) would be content with an ad with poor quality, as it could be seen as a reflection of the company.
The same goes for “small”/scaled down images, especially in “customer comments”. In an age where even the cheapest phones have a sensor size of at least 8MP (and reasonably fast internet connections), it’s hard to find a good reason why a normal customer would take a photo of their “purchase”, scale it down to 400×400 pixels (0.16MP), or less, and then post it.
- Search for the images
The best, but perhaps not the easiest, way is to try to take one of the (probably stolen) photos and use it an reverse image search (Several search engines, like Google or TinEye [Google gives better results in our experinces], let you do that). If you’re using Chrome or a derivative (like Brave or Edge), you can right click on an image and select “Search Google for image”, in other browsers you can either download the image (right click -> Save Image As..), or copy the image location (right click -> Copy image Location) and then upload the image/paste the URL into the “Search with image” (Camera icon in Google Image search).
You can then see if and where that image has been used, many times a stolen image (at least in the comments on ads) is likely to be from an Amazon review or similar.
(NB: Just because an image can’t be found this way doesn’t mean that it’s “OK”, since there are ways to make this technique harder, but it is one of the best evidences you can get when you find the actual source of the image)
(*Well, sadly, that still happens sometimes, but in most of those cases they don’t steal photos and images of the products they are trying to sell)