How Easy Is It To Identify A Fake Screenshot (really)?

33 replies
This thread was inspired by another thread where I saw a mod talking about how they will delete a thread and ban a seller if they use fake screenshots.

I am not trying to get banned by posting this thread. I've always been extremely curious about this topic and rather than hijack that thread, I figured I'd make a separate thread. I'm going to make some bold claims at the end of this, and would appreciate some honest answers.

As someone who's been using photoshop and for 8 years, and can do virtually anything with the program, I'm curious how the pros or experienced moderators identify fake screenshots?

The way I've always seen it, if someone has the slightest clue what they're doing, there is no way you can tell a screenshot is fake. Counterfeiting money is a totally different story, since you're up against the secret service and are dealing with a tangible commodity. But a screenshot? A screenshot is nothing but a mere image. Most of the time, a very basic image. Its mostly just numbers, squares, shapes and colors.

In photoshop you can magnify images by 1600% and literally compare 1 pixel to another. So if something is off, a font, a shade or color, if 1 pixel is off, its easy to see and fix.

In web design, many times I've copied designs or certain graphics from other sites. Then I change some colors around, change some fonts / colors etc code it to html and use it for my own sites. Most of the time I "remix" the graphics. If its something small like arrows, I usually just steal them and don't make any edits (I have an obsession with arrows ).

I also know from copying and pasting my own Clickbank screenshots (I have a journey on another forum going). To post my screenshots, I have to copy and paste them into photoshop. Then I usually magnify the images and censor the last 2 digits of my sales, so people can't trace what products I'm selling. But you can see, clear as day under magnification, that a child could reproduce a fake screenshot within minutes. It would take seconds to change the numbers and I see no way in the world how someone could tell its a fake. I also remember seeing a video on YT where people do it using some type of java code. So the screen itself changes right on Clickbank.

I'm not trying to start a controversial thread. I've just never seen someone make a thread like this and ask such bold, direct questions.

These are my claims / questions:

1) Isn't it true, that the high majority of screenshots can easily be faked? (if a person really wanted to?)

2) And isn't it true, that most of the time, noone (including noobs, vets or mods) can tell? (I said most of the time, not all the time )

Keep in mind, I am NO expert on this topic. And I only have 1 CPA account and a Clickbank account. Maybe other networks have signature trademarks they use that are harder to copy. But I've seen so many screenshots from many different networks (that other marketers use), and most of them are just numbers, tables and squares.

-Red
#easy #fake #identify #screenshot
  • Profile picture of the author writeaway
    Wasn't there a website that automated this? I believe it was started as a joke and was meant to show people how easy it was to fake screenshots and affiliate program paychecks. You merely needed to enter a dollar amount and name and you're good to go. Crazy stuff. Regardless, I think people who know what they are doing don't rely on inflated income claims and size up programs/opportunities based on realistic factors like saturation, base traffic potential, overall demand levels, etc.
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  • Profile picture of the author Riggs
    It's very easy to 'Inspect Element' in most modern browsers, edit values, then upload screenshots to attest ridiculous claims of earnings. Anyone can do this and it doesn't require any fancy software. For anyone suspected of using fancy software, I believe there's a reliable free online tool somewhere that allows you to check the forensics of an image for signs of editing, though I can't remember the name of it right now.

    What I tend to find amusing is the reactions displayed when lying sellers are publicly called out by a community of potential buyers on false claims, further leaving their amazing product/service in disrepute.
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    • Profile picture of the author joseph7384
      Originally Posted by Riggs View Post

      . For anyone suspected of using fancy software, I believe there's a reliable free online tool somewhere that allows you to check the forensics of an image for signs of editing, though I can't remember the name of it right now.

      But what if the editing was done before the screenshot was taken, not so easy to detect that type of fraud.
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  • Profile picture of the author Sarevok
    I'd say it's nearly impossible to detect fraudulent screen shots.



    If anyone disagrees?

    I'd be willing to put it to the test.

    In a controlled ethical environment of course.

    There's the old saying - believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.
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  • Profile picture of the author Content Commando
    I was actually wondering this yesterday. I see so many WSO's and sales pages that seem so shady.

    Personally, I just ignore the income reports and look at the product for what it is.
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  • Profile picture of the author Sarevok
    People make images of Bigfoot & Aliens these days and experts can't tell for sure if the images are fake.



    How easy is it to make fake "text" screen shots compared to that?

    Food for thought.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jeffery
    tineye is a online reverse image tool that can be helpful: tineye.com

    All images have a bit of data in them that make them unique and can be traced to the original computer that the image was created. It takes a very skilled person with special tools to trace the image to the original computer.

    Tineye does a good jobs, though not a perfect job, sourcing the image with the same bit of data uploaded to different sites. This is handy if the original screenshot is in a WSO and later edited and loaded on a different site. Lazy webmasters will do exactly that for different offers and different sites.

    Jeffery 100% :-)
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    • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
      I don't claim we can spot every fake. I only state that when we can reliably demonstrate that an income or results screenshot has been edited or stolen, we close the offer and ban the seller.

      In theory, it isn't that tough to make an unassailable graphic to represent a machine-generated page of numbers and text with known and consistent characteristics. Much easier than to fake a photo, for example. A lot of people just don't have the skills or ambition, or don't know the ways they can get caught. I've PM'd you a few of the more common.

      My favorite was the guy who forgot there were already numbers after the decimal point and added more, without deleting the originals. Something like $1327.00.74. Looked more like a botched IP address than a price.


      Paul
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    • Profile picture of the author joseph7384
      Originally Posted by Jeffery View Post

      tineye is a online reverse image tool that can be helpful: tineye.com

      All images have a bit of data in them that make them unique and can be traced to the original computer that the image was created. It takes a very skilled person with special tools to trace the image to the original computer.

      But it's the newbie scammer who get caught, seasoned scammers are way to smart for that.

      Below is an image I took from this page, and I did some editing on the left side to your profile info. It is undetectable as far as I know and took me a whole 2 minutes to edit.

      I won't reveal how it's done because I don't want to inform others who would use this for shady things. I have a tutorial that I show my offline clients how easy it is for so called SEO exports to scam them with fake screenshots.


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      • Profile picture of the author RobinInTexas
        Originally Posted by joseph7384 View Post

        But it's the newbie scammer who get caught, seasoned scammers are way to smart for that.

        Below is an image I took from this page, and I did some editing on the left side to your profile info. It is undetectable as far as I know and took me a whole 2 minutes to edit.

        I won't reveal how it's done because I don't want to inform others who would use this for shady things. I have a tutorial that I show my offline clients how easy it is for so called SEO exports to scam them with fake screenshots.


        The screenshot is genuine, it simple to save a page and edit the data that renders the page. No need for a $1000 photoshop editor, you can do it with (IE|Chrome|Firefox|Netscape) notepad and paint.
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        Robin



        ...Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just set there.
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        • Profile picture of the author joseph7384
          Originally Posted by RobinInTexas View Post

          The screenshot is genuine, it simple to save a page and edit the data that renders the page. No need for a $1000 photoshop editor, you can do it with (IE|Chrome|Firefox|Netscape) notepad and paint.
          All I can say is that it's not done with photoshop, nothing to do with any browsers nor was any editor used such as paint, notepad or gimp.

          Sarevok is on to me, it was alien technology.
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          • Profile picture of the author Peter May
            Originally Posted by joseph7384 View Post

            All I can say is that it's not done with photoshop, nothing to do with any browsers nor was any editor used such as paint, notepad or gimp.

            Sarevok is on to me, it was alien technology.
            It does look good but like many (not all) fakes I was immediately drawn to an error that would have flagged this as fake.

            The comma was missing on the 9000!
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            • Profile picture of the author joseph7384
              Originally Posted by Peter May View Post

              It does look good but like many (not all) fakes I was immediately drawn to an error that would have flagged this as fake.

              The comma was missing on the 9000!
              And that's how you catch a scumbag, well done my friend.
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  • Profile picture of the author shahriyar
    Originally Posted by RedShifted View Post

    1) Isn't it true, that the high majority of screenshots can easily be faked? (if a person really wanted to?)

    2) And isn't it true, that most of the time, noone (including noobs, vets or mods) can tell? (I said most of the time, not all the time )
    I have worked with Photoshop for many years including blending one image into another smoothly etc.

    1) Yes, true. Put enough effort into it & it can be nearly impossible to identify fake from real.

    2) General people wouldn't be able to tell, but if the image has ares with flaws, it can be detected by analyzing the image closely. Faws like font mismatch, blending issues, brightness/contrast mismatch etc. can be detected with close inspection (e.g. zooming).
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  • Profile picture of the author joaquin112
    All images have a bit of data in them that make them unique and can be traced to the original computer that the image was created. It takes a very skilled person with special tools to trace the image to the original computer.
    I tried to find more information about this, but was unable to. Care to share where you learned about this?
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    • Profile picture of the author Jeffery
      Originally Posted by joaquin112 View Post

      I tried to find more information about this, but was unable to. Care to share where you learned about this?
      For more information Google.. internet trace, internet tracking and bugs or beacons. Those terms will point you in the right direction. All I can say in this forum is that any file/image can be traced to computer

      Jeffery 100% :-)
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  • Profile picture of the author shane_k
    We may not always be able to tell if an image has been photoshopped or not, but here is the thing, the kind of people who usually do fake their photos usually also leave behind other clues as to their intention(s) and/or morals.


    And sometimes it is those other clues that send up "red flags" warning us not to buy those products.
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  • Profile picture of the author Joan Altz
    What I really distrust are the enhanced screenshots, where they take a shot and then highlight the numbers for emphasis, or put an outer glow around it, or a magnifying glass focus...how anyone takes those seriously is beyond me.
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  • Profile picture of the author zenxseo
    1) Isn't it true, that the high majority of screenshots can easily be faked? (if a person really wanted to?)

    2) And isn't it true, that most of the time, noone (including noobs, vets or mods) can tell? (I said most of the time, not all the time

    Ans:- If a Person really want and if he is good enough in photoshop he can
    but then also if Expert want to know image is fake or not they can.
    That why i trust most of the time live video screen cast
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    • Profile picture of the author profitsforall
      Originally Posted by zenxseo View Post

      That why i trust most of the time live video screen cast
      I wouldn't trust those 100% either.

      Spending 5 minutes thinking about it, It would be relatively easy to create a fake website that mocksup one possible path through another website.

      e.g

      Login.....new screen presented....enter date range... retrieve transactions and show total....

      All that would be necessary was some way to change where paypal.com sends you if typed in to your browser (obviously this would need to show paypal.com in the browser bar still and I'm not certain but I think this is possible). You then look like you are on the real site but aren't.

      Probably too much work for some scammers.
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  • Profile picture of the author kpmedia
    I've used Photoshop for 20+ years now, and work heavily in video/photo restoration and have dabbled in forensics (working informally with PIs and law enforcement). Making good fake images takes effort and skill, neither of which most users of fakery would have. When amateurs try it, it's often easy to spot.

    I never tell others what to look for on sites like this, as it would just serve to help them make better fakes. Why make things easier for low-rent liars, cheats, and all-around a-holes?

    Screenshots are much easier than full photos, but there's still a learning curve.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Singletary
    One fairly recent WSO poster was found out when a visitor noticed that the computer cursor was captured in the image. That was extremely obvious to even the newest of newbies.

    Mark
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  • Profile picture of the author Young Financier
    A couple of years ago, I saw a javascript code that one could enter to punch in numbers in their PayPal or any other affiliate account. Not sure if that still works but that was how they were doing it at that time.
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    • Profile picture of the author bwh1
      Originally Posted by Young Financier View Post

      A couple of years ago, I saw a javascript code that one could enter to punch in numbers in their PayPal or any other affiliate account. Not sure if that still works but that was how they were doing it at that time.
      Yep, that's the way the pro's did it (only assuming)

      The code makes an exact copy of ANY page, even https pages and you can edit all you want, THEN take a screenshot of it.

      Impossible to detect as the image hasn't been edited.

      I can be a Millionaire Affiliate at Clickbank at will, just won't help me when I go to my bank.

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      • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
        All that would be necessary was some way to change where paypal.com sends you if typed in to your browser (obviously this would need to show paypal.com in the browser bar still and I'm not certain but I think this is possible). You then look like you are on the real site but aren't.
        That's not especially tough, either.

        There are some parts that would be very hard to fake. Almost no-one would think to look for them, though, and I'm not going to mention them here.
        Impossible to detect as the image hasn't been edited.
        That kind of assertion makes the crooks easier to catch.

        Unless something has been updated since the last time I saw that one used, that little exploit leaves a distinct tell-tale signature on some pages. They are, providentially, the most likely pages to be faked in screenshots.
        The comma was missing on the 9000!
        There are others, too. Like the fact that the forum didn't exist in 1988. Or the fact that you can't be thanked less than one time per post in the "Thanked" category.

        The fact that "Jimmy" is using another Warrior's photo is indicative, but not conclusive.


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        • Profile picture of the author joseph7384
          Originally Posted by Paul Myers View Post

          There are others, too. Like the fact that the forum didn't exist in 1988.
          But Paul, the proof is right there in the image so it has to be true!
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        • Profile picture of the author shane_k
          Originally Posted by Paul Myers View Post

          Like the fact that the forum didn't exist in 1988. Or the fact that you can't be thanked less than one time per post in the "Thanked" category.

          Paul

          This is some of what I meant in my post. Those who are going to fake their photos usually forget the little things, like the comma, or make mistakes in other ways that send up red flags letting you know that something is up.
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  • Profile picture of the author Sarevok
    Why is nobody discussing the prominent phenomenon of alien screen shots & images?

    Seriously...

    I'm not saying it was aliens...

    But it was aliens.

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  • Profile picture of the author tomm
    You don't need photoshop to make a fake screenshot. You can do it in less than 1 minute using your browser and the "inspect element" feature to edit any value on your screen(this on Chrome, I guess other browsers have similar ways). It's impossible to detect this kind of fake, only if the faker makes a mistake, usually math related (numbers don't add up, etc).

    The fact is simple

    Screenshots don't prove anything and can be faked in less than 1 minute, and it will be impossible to detect.
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  • Profile picture of the author sci
    Perhaps people should start using something like Website notary(like) service. Then faking screenshots will become a forgotten art.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ebbi
    The answer is quite simple!
    If the person who made the fake screenshot made a mistake
    you can spot it.... but if all numbers, letters and designs are
    like they should be it's no telling if it's fake or not!
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