How to spot a scam
How to spot a scam
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)
It’s common that these sites has information that differs from one place on the site to another.
The most common examples of this is the name of the site/store, usually a different (sometimes just slightly different, like just one letter missing) name is used by the Facebook page that runs the ad than the the name and domain used by the “store” (One example, and another example, that uses three variants/names).
There are also sites that uses another name on pages like the “About Us” sections, that’s different from the domain and site title. We can find this happening with the “Droidnew“/”Playnew” site(s) (that have ads under other names than “Playnew”, but also have “droidnew” in the about section).
Another example of this are the “Funpinpin sites“, which you can read more about here, which all have different names but all uses Funpinpin in their about sections.
These are just some examples of common inconsistency (other things that might be inconsistent across these sites are things like contact and business information, etc), but any inconsistent information should lead you to think twice and back away from that store/site, it’s not worth the possibly to lose money to a scam.
It should always be a big warning sign if a business site/store lacks important information (and even more so if it’s “wrong”, see bellow), such as:
- No contact/support information (e-mail, phone, etc)
- No business information, such as company name, address, a “Company ID”, etc
- No information on where they are located/shipping from (related to “No business info”, but not always the same as an post address)
One might point out that there’s some legitimate stores and businesses out there which sites doesn’t include some of that info, and one might be right.
Many scam sites tend to have names that seem randomly generated and doesn’t make much sense, like:
- Analystnew / Antalystnew-life
The most likely reason to why the names are so “random”, is that they buy a whole lot of, randomly generated, domains at the same time and then if one store gets taken down they just open a new under the next random domain.
What’s wrong with a low price? In many cases: Nothing (and you might get a great deal), but in some cases it’s a sign that you should think both twice and thrice before clicking on buy.
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. That might seem like an old and overused phrase, but it still holds true, especially when it comes to commerce.
A mystery box scam site could say that you will get (“at least one”) product worth $100 up to $1500 for the price of “just” $20 – $30. A scam site selling specific products (drones, LEGO, 3D-printers, etc) could list an item as reduced to $40, the “original” price listed as $149. But that “original” price can actually be undervalued, to make the reduced price more believable, where the actual price of the product is $800.
It doesn’t make sense for business to sell items at as low as 5%, or even at 20-30%, of their ordinary retail prices (or MSRP), since they would, most likely, loose money, and definitely miss out of potentially higher profits (especially at the volume some of these sites claim they have sold/have left).
This is still true for sites that claim that “they had to close down due to …”, because the goal should be to get as much as money as possible out from the liquidation, to pay creditors etc.
If a store lists very low prices for items it’s likely that one (or multiple) of these things are true:
- The items are stolen
- The items are counterfeit (like a knock-off copy of AirPods, or they are something like Lepin [LEGO knock-off])
- There are no items, at all
- You will get something (usually crappy) that isn’t at all what you paid for.