If the Internet has given legions of imposters the tools they need to perpetrate a good ruse, it's also given us the means to catch them. But as we've seen with the cultural phenomenon documented by MTV's "Catfish: The TV Show," people want to trust that the person on the other end of the computer is the world-traveled beauty queen they claim to be.
One of the most effective ways to unmask someone who is pretending to be someone else is quite simple, akin to a Google image "reverse" search. Funny enough, this is mostly how frauds are discovered on Nev Schulman's "Catfish." The show manages to stretch the process into an hourlong show, chronicling people who find love online and setting up in-person reveals for the couple, often to the dismay of the one party that was telling the truth.
Now Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, heralded for his on-field heroics during his girlfriend's tragic illness and death, wants us to believe he, too, was "catfished." He wants us to believe that after her "death," he found out his beloved Lennay Kekua never existed. Despite his previous stories of how they locked eyes upon meeting, how after landing in a coma, her breathing would pick up when she heard his voice, Te'o now wants us to believe that he met someone pretending to be her online -- never in person -- and was scammed.
It turns out pictures of the fictitious Lennay were actually lifted from an unwitting 23-year-old Los Angeles woman, used in a fake Twitter profile and countless handouts to the media. The crack reporters at the sports website Deadspin discovered this. Here's how they (likely) did it, and how you can find out the origins of nearly any picture on the web:
Step one is to download Google's Chrome browser. It includes an enhanced version of Google's image search. Step two is to save the image in question to your hard drive. Do a split-screen view, with Google Chrome on one side and the image on the other. Drag and drop the image into Google's image search. Voila. You should be able to view any other place that the picture, as well as similar-looking ones, appears on the Web.
If you want to go a little deeper into identity verification, I recommend the subscription-based website Spokeo. It's an online phone book that integrates with social media sites and their user names. It's got a number of uses, and a few months back, I helped a friend find out that his sketchy new love interest was actually married. These days, there are few good reasons to fall for a scam -- even if the perpetrator is a contender for the Heisman Trophy with a feel-good story that we wanted to believe.
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